Date: Tuesday, July 11, 2023 6:30 PM
Location: Temple University, Japan Campus (Access) 1-14-29 Taishido, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan 154-0004


  • Chris Kavanagh (Associate Professor, Rikkyo University)


  • Benoît Hardy-Chartrand (Temple University, Japan Campus)


We are living in a golden era of digital gurus from YouTube influencers to techno monks and podcast pundits. Their rise has been facilitated with a revived and increasingly influential interest in conspiracy theories, particularly notable in the online world and among populist politicians. Charismatic figures such as Elon Musk, Jordan Peterson, and Russell Brand now spread their prophetic and conspiratorial messages to millions of digital followers.

This talk explores how these very modern gurus have adapted a traditional charismatic and performative role to suit a contemporary context, offering a comforting antidote to the alienating complexities of modern life. Based on a multi-year deep analysis of their content, partly documented on the Decoding the Gurus podcast, this talk will explore the psychological and rhetorical techniques these gurus leverage to grow their audiences and position themselves at the forefront of public discourse.

Date & Time:

Tuesday, July 11, 2023 18:30-


Temple University, Japan Campus Room 401 (Access)


Registration is not required (e-mail to


This event is organized by the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS).

Note: All ICAS events are held in English, open to the public, and admission is free unless otherwise noted.


Chris Kavanagh

Associate Professor, Rikkyo University

Chris Kavanagh is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Rikkyo University and a Researcher at the Centre for Studies of Social Cohesion at Oxford University. His research focuses mainly on the psychological and social effects of religious belief and collective rituals and he has a long standing interest in skepticism, pseudoscience, and conspiracy theory communities. He co-hosts Decoding the Gurus, a podcast dedicated to examining the techniques of modern online Gurus.

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