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Sociology Research

Rin is a cultural and political sociologist interested in the long-term and inter-generational impacts of mass violence on affected communities.

He is currently a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge and a Research Fellow in Sociology at Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge. He is also the Review Editor for the International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society.

His current British Academy-funded postdoctoral project, ‘The survival and reproduction of historical revisionism in Japanese public discourse: 1996-present’, investigates how ‘historical revisionism’ – claims that deny or underplay Japanese wartime atrocities – has become a dominant strand of Japanese right-wing nationalism since the mid-1990s. Synthesising perspectives from sociology of knowledge, political sociology, and memory studies, this project seeks to explain why and how academically discredited historical claims circulate in public discourse. Using social network analysis, he has built an original database that maps out the complex ties between right-wing public intellectuals, religious organisations, political parties, and activist groups inside and outside Japan.

He has also recently completed the manuscript for his first academic monograph, titled Remembering Religious Terrorism: the Aum Affair in Japanese Collective Memory, which is currently under review by the University of Hawai'i Press. The Aum Affair was a series of crimes committed by new religious movement Aum Shinrikyō (abbreviated as ‘Aum’) between 1988 and 1995, which culminated in the gassing of the Tokyo subway using sarin in March 1995. This book reconstructs the long-term impacts of Aum’s religious terrorism on contemporary Japanese culture. It traces the struggles between actors over the representation and commemoration of the Aum Affair from 1994 – the year of Aum’s first terrorist attack – to the present. Using original data gathered from interviews, participant observation, and media reports, this volume examines how the meanings of the Aum Affair have been fiercely contested by various stakeholders, including the state, mass media, public intellectuals, victims, and former members. The Aum Affair sparked debates over questions of the validity of “brainwashing”, individual responsibility of culprits, and the validity of the death penalty, many of which continue today. Arguing that commemoration of violence can divide society as much as it can heal, this study demonstrates that whilst confronting horrific acts of violence require moral condemnation, the entrenchment of categories of “good vs. evil” and “victims vs. perpetrators” can hinder reconciliation.

More broadly, he researches and teaches in areas of social theory, sociology of culture/cultural sociology, memory studies, Japanese politics, sociology of religion (particularly minority religions in Japan and around the world).

Research Interests

Political Sociology; Cultural Sociology; Memory Studies; Sociology of Religion; Social Movement Studies; Social Theory; Sociology of Ideas; Sociology of Intellectuals; Japanese Religions; Minority Religions; Sociology of East Asia.


Undergraduate Course Supervision:

SOC 1 Introduction to Sociology

SOC 8 Religion and Contentious Mobilization

Key Publications - Books

Ushiyama, R. (forthcoming). Remembering Religious Terrorism: the Aum Affair in Japanese Collective Memory. Under review by the University of Hawai'i Press.

Key Publications - Book Chapters

Ushiyama, R. (2021) ‘Reactions to legal challenges by Aum Shinrikyō and its successor organisations’, Barker, E. and Richardson, J.T. (Eds.) Reactions to the Law by Minority Religions. Routledge Inform Series on Minority Religions and Spiritual Movements. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 169-187.

Ushiyama, R. (2019) ‘Commemorating violence in and beyond liberal democracies’. In British Academy (Ed.) Violence and Democracy. London: British Academy, pp. 13-17.

Key Publications - Journal Articles

Baert, Patrick, Morgan, Marcus. and Ushiyama, Rin (2021) "Existence theory: Outline for a theory of social behaviour." Journal of Classical Sociology. First Online 18 March 2021.

Ushiyama, R. (2019) ‘Latency through uncertainty: the 1994 Matsumoto Sarin Incident as a delayed cultural trauma’. International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society 32(1): 21-41. 

Ushiyama, R. (2014) Richard Dawkins as a public intellectual after The God Delusion: A British study. American Journal of Cultural Sociology, vol.2 no.3 pp. 300-326.

Grants and Projects

2020-21: Partnership, Impact and Collaboration Grant for conference ‘Memories in transit’, Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement, University of Cambridge.

2017-21: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship

Ushiyama, R. (PI) The survival and reproduction of historical revisionism in Japanese public discourse: 1996-present. The British Academy (2017-2019): £228,390.

PhD Supervisor

Research Groups & Affiliations


Non-Stipendiary Early Career Research Fellowship in Sociology, Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge.

Cambridge Commonweath, European and International Trust: Cambridge International Scholarship, 2013-16

Job Title:
British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Murray Edwards College