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Religious Garment in the Jesuit Mission to Japan

This project aims to analyse the use of garments in the early-modern Jesuit mission in Japan (1549-1639), both in official policies and in actual practice, to counteract the decontextualisation and flattening that this mission often suffers. An often misrepresented and discounted aspect of this encounter between Christianity and Buddhism, the manner in which the Jesuits dressed changed repeatedly throughout the sixteenth century. The mission’s policies fluctuated between the preserving of group identity and the imitation of the alien context, at times striving to find a balance, others favouring one or the other. These variations were caused by the different hierarchisation of the functions of dress among the Jesuits, and were ultimately connected with soteriology itself. At the same time, the figure of the Buddhist monk emerged as central in these debates, to be comprehensively copied, partially imitated, or aggressively denounced. Dress therefore becomes an indicator in the larger question of inter-religious contact, allowing for a mapping of the priorities and the objectives of the Jesuit missionaries, in their moment of encounter with an alien culture.