Dana Mirsalis


Japanese religion, gender history, pedagogy

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About Me


Historian, ethnographer, pedagogy nerd.

Research and Presentations


Conference presentations and other research activities.

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Teaching and Pedagogy


Pedagogy workshops, teaching resources, and other things I've done to help people learn better.


Research and Presentations

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Selected Conference Presentations and Invited Lectures

"Women as Substitute, Women as Complement: Two Stories on the Gendered Shinto Priesthood in Postwar Japan." Kyushu University, January 22, 2021 (Recording here.)

"Applying Patchwork Ethnography to Research in Contemporary Japan - A Roundtable on Positionality, Networks, and ‘Piecing Together’ One’s Field" (roundtable) at Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies, January 17, 2021

“‘What’s the Value of Female Priests?’: Discourses on the Gendered Priesthood in Postwar Shinto” at American Academy of Religion, December 2, 2020

“Moving ‘Like Women’: Ritual Technique and the Gendering of the Shinto Priesthood” at American Academy of Religion, November 25, 2019

“‘Leveraging Our Special Skills’: Strategic Gender Essentialism in Female Priests’ Self-Evaluation” at Asian Studies Conference Japan, June 29, 2019

“女子神職と「普通の女性」—現代神道におけるジェンダー構造” (Female Priests and the “Normal Woman”: Gender Construction in Contemporary Shinto) at Shūkyō to Shakai Gakkai (Japanese Association for the Study of Religion and Society), June 9, 2018

“‘Can Female Priests Really Live as Normal Women?’: Gender, Relationality, and Female Shinto Priests” at Nanzan Seminar for the Study of Religion and Culture, January 8, 2018

“Myth, Spiritualism, and Psychology: Sources of Legitimacy During Ōmoto’s ‘Chinkon Kishin Boom,’ 1916-1921” at UCLA Japan Studies Graduate Student Conference, October 30, 2015

“‘I Am a Woman, But Have the Nature of a Male’: Moving Beyond the Gender Binary in Analyzing the Founders of Japanese New Religious Movements” at Columbia University Graduate Conference on East Asia at Columbia University, February 20, 2015

“Mediated Egalitarianism: Sources of Authority in Ōmoto’s ‘Chinkon Kishin Boom’” at Ways of Knowing: Graduate Conference on Religion at Harvard Divinity School, October 25, 2013

Podcast Appearances
Beyond Japan episode 24, "Modern Shinto" (available here)

Teaching and Pedagogy

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All of these resources are free and open for your use (with attribution). For lesson plans and further teaching resources, feel free to email me.

Pedagogy Resources

Performance Skills in the Classroom, a two-hour workshop to teach instructors how techniques from theatre (especially improv) can be leveraged in the classroom.
Introduction to Accessible Education, a 90-minute workshop developed as a collaboration between the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning and the Accessible Education Office at Harvard University to introduce graduate students to disability at Harvard, the resources at the Accessible Education Office, and how to implement Universal Design for Learning techniques in their own classrooms.

Teaching Resources

Paper Writing Tips and Tricks handout
Let’s try to stop the Tokugawa shogunate from collapsing, a historical roleplay (ABLConnect Prize winner, 2018-2019)
The Spectrum Game, an activity teaching students to compare and contrast

Pedagogy Instruction and Curriculum Development

Department Pedagogy Fellow, East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department, Harvard University, 2019-2020
Duties included: teaching the East Asian Languages and Civilizations Teaching Practicum (a pedagogy seminar for graduate students) in fall 2019, conducting observations of graduate student sections, and consulting with graduate students about how to improve their teaching


Curriculum development, fall 2012, Harvard University
Animated Spirituality (undergraduate course on Japanese religion and popular culture)

Guest lectures

Guest lecture on female Shinto priests at Carleton College, fall 2020

Guest lecture on Japanese gender history at Smith University, spring 2020

Guest lecture on ethnographic research methods at Waseda University, fall 2017

Guest lecture on Shinto at Yamanashi Gakuin, fall 2017

Other teaching experience

East Asian Religions: Traditions and Transformations (Teaching Fellow, Harvard University)

Japan in Asia and the World (undergraduate course on Japanese history) (Teaching Fellow, Harvard University)

Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory (Teaching Fellow, Harvard University)

Elementary Japanese 1-3 (Teaching Assistant, Foothill College)

About Me

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Dana Mirsalis is a scholar of modern Japanese religion. She is currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations (EALC) at Harvard University.

Her master's thesis focused on gender and authority in Ōmoto during their "chinkon kishin boom" of 1916 to 1921. Her doctoral dissertation research focuses on female Shinto priests, specifically the construction and interpretation of gendered labor in postwar Shinto and its implications for understanding contemporary Shinto as well as postwar gender history. Some overarching goals that guide her research include writing gender history that moves beyond the gender binary and empathetically (but critically) discussing the ways that marginalized people reinterpret dominant narratives to create spaces for themselves without necessarily challenging the logic of their marginalization.

Dana has previously been a research and training student at Nanzan University on a Fulbright Fellows grant and a visiting fellow at Kokugakuin University on a Fulbright Graduate Research grant. She uses a mix of archival and ethnographic research methods. She has conducted fieldwork in shrines, priest training courses, and with priest-affiliated organizations, as well as interviews with Shinto priests, parishioners, and instructors.

Dana also has an enthusiasm for teaching and pedagogy, especially addressing issues of accessibility and equity. She served as the Department Pedagogy Fellow for EALC in 2019-2020, has taught workshops on pedagogy, and develops free-to-use teaching resources. See her teaching page for more information.

She is available for guest lectures on Japanese religion, Japanese history, and ethnographic methods via Zoom or Skype.

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