Jane Marie Law received her undergraduate degree in Religious Studies from the University of Colorado, and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago, where her work in history of religions focused on Japanese ritual performance and ritual studies. She has spent over five years in Japan conducting field research.
Over the last several years, she has been working on a monograph on Buddhist monasticism in the United States. She has also served on the board of directors for Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies in Ithaca, New York, the North American seat of the personal monastery of Holiness the Dalai Lama. In her scholarship and teaching, she is concerned with fusing activism with scholarship,and social responsibility with teaching as a vocation. In the last several years she has been involved in projects to bring scholars working on issues of religion and human rights together with social activists and educators working on these issues. In the fall of 2000, she was co-director with Rev. Janet Shortall and Dr. Anke Wessels of a conference entitled "Religion and Human Rights: Ideology, the Rhetoric of Hate and the Languages of Reconciliation".
Professor Law's research explores the interface between living communities and religious ideologies and praxis, with fieldwork as a core methodology. Her early work focused on the ritual uses of human effigies in Japan, and explored how puppetry represents a kind of ritual logic. From this work, she became interested in issues of cultural memory and memorialization of atrocity. Recently, she has turned her attention to how religious communities participate in debates and actions concerning ecological healing or degradation, and movements toward or away from sustainable living. Her current writing explores the activities of marginal intentional religious communities presenting models of transition to ecologically sustainable living. The questions she is exploring are wide reaching, allowing a variety of cases and questions to be explored in her work: What ecological knowledge is the particular community protecting and developing? What religious ideas, ideologies and epistemologies are being employed to explain the reasons for the protection and development? Do these communities use this ecological knowledge and lens as an outreach to their broader lay religious contexts? Do these communities employ any languages of morality or ethics to enhance their conservation and protection? How do they translate what they are doing to a wider audience outside their religious communities? In the end, do these intentional communities have answers to questions of survival (food security, models of communal living, habitat conservation and resource management) that have not been adequately explored? In her research, she is committed to developing methodologies that enable scholars and communities to work together to find answers to shared questions.
- Puppets of nostalgia : the life, death, and rebirth of the Japanese Awaji ningyō tradition. Princeton University Press.
- Religious Reflections on the Human Body. Indiana University Press.