PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23-26, 2019

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Buddhism Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

This Unit is the largest, most stable, and most diverse forum for Buddhist studies in North America. We embrace the full historical range of the Buddhist tradition from its inception some two-and-a-half millennia ago to the present and span its entire geographical sweep — the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Tibet, Mongolia, China, Korea, Japan, and the West. In addition to being historically and geographically inclusive, we have made efforts to encourage methodological plurality. Papers presented in recent years reflect, in addition to the philological and textual approaches of classic Buddhology, the methods of intellectual history, institutional history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, gender and cultural studies, art history, literary theory, and postcolonial studies. We will continue to encourage cross-disciplinary exchange. This Unit is the forum of choice for many established scholars. For some years now, we have also striven to provide a forum for younger scholars to aid them in establishing their careers. Under normal circumstances, at least one session at the Annual Meeting is devoted to four or five individual papers; often many or all of these are from graduate students or younger scholars making their first academic presentation at a national conference. In recent years, a growing number of foreign scholars have come to recognize this Unit as a valuable forum to submit proposals, including scholars whose primary language is not English. We wish to continue to promote communication with scholars abroad and to provide opportunities for younger scholars.

Call for Papers: 

The Buddhism Unit welcomes proposals for papers sessions, individual papers, and roundtables in all areas of the study of Buddhism. To encourage greater exchange among the various subfields within Buddhist Studies, we are particularly interested in sessions that confront enduring problems in the study of Buddhism, raise important theoretical or methodological issues, and/ or bring fresh materials or perspectives to bear on themes of broad interest.

This year, we again ask you to keep in mind the new format of the AAR Annual Meeting and the Unit’s new allotment of sessions—which is as follows (we will choose either Option A or Option B after we evaluate the proposals that come in):

(Option A) Two 2.5-hour sessions, one 2-hour session, and three 90-minute
sessions
(Option B) One 2.5-hour session, one 2-hour session, and five 90-minute
sessions
(with either option) One additional 90-minute session through cosponsorship
with another Unit

We invite proposals for 2.5-hour sessions, 2-hour sessions, and 90-minute sessions. In comparison to previous years, however, there will be a significant decrease in the number of 2.5-hour sessions available and a significant increase in the number of 90-minute sessions available. Please keep this in mind in formulating your proposals. As always, we encourage new and innovative formats. Please do not submit a paper as both an Individual Paper Proposal and as part of a Papers Session Proposal.

Below are some of the themes that our members have proposed for the 2019 meeting, but please also feel free to submit a proposal on topics not represented on this list. If you are interested in contributing to a proposal on one of these topics, please contact the organizer directly.

● Dharmic Aspirations, Poetic Conversations: Scenes of Ethical Instruction in Buddhist Literature, Contacts: Alexis Brown (Harvard University): ALB931@mail.harvard.edu and Elizabeth Angowski (Earlham College): angowel@earlham.edu -
This panel puts analyses of dialogues in Buddhist literature in conversation with one another in an effort to see how dialogues work to engage readers and affect them in ethically significant ways. Inspired by Mark Jordan's work on "scenes of instruction" in Christian ethics, each paper focuses not only on the contents of conversations, but also on the time, place, and circumstances of a dialogue to show how all that figures in inter-character relations may serve as both the means and the substance of ethical teaching.


Buddhism and Disability Studies, Contact: Justin Fifield (Trinity College): justin.fifield@trincoll.edu -
Disability Studies was founded on a critical intervention into the biomedicalization of bodily impairment, setting forth a social model of disability that could overturn oppressive conditions for the disabled. A coalitional intersectionality with feminism, critical race theory, Queer Studies, and Animal Studies has pushed the field beyond the social model into exciting new areas, such as epistemology—what is now called cripistemology—postcolonial studies, critical culture studies, and a new historicism that looks beyond representation to chart how the disabled body has historically structured knowledge systems about all bodies. This panel aims to cultivate a needed and overdue engagement between Disability Studies and Buddhist Studies. It calls for papers on Buddhism and disability from a variety of historical, social, and cultural perspectives. Papers should explicitly engage with theory from Disability Studies and, ideally, a political program of overturning systems of oppression, in line with the AAR’s 2019 presidential theme of scholarly engagement in public spheres.


● Polemics and Problematization, Contact: Rae Dachille (University of Arizona): raedachille@email.arizona.edu -
How have Buddhists created the conditions for generating diverse solutions to common problems, problems with philosophical, political, practical, and ontological dimensions? The rich polemical traditions of Buddhism have intrigued scholars, providing platforms for engaging with the socio-political and economic dimensions of Buddhist life. However, the sectarian dimensions of Buddhist polemics have often been overemphasized, obscuring the possibility for locating openings in Buddhist discourses for productive exchange. While traditions like philosophical debate provide opportunities to garner prestige and perform tradition, they are also part of a broader pedagogical program. This program involves techniques of assuming the opponents’ views to clarify your own as well as charged and dynamic progress toward the mutual clarification of ideas. In a 1984 interview on his own relationship to politics, Michel Foucault critiqued the manner in which polemics obstructs the possibility for dialogue. He proposed “problematization” as an alternative model for addressing challenging issues. What potential does “problematization” promise for enriching our approach to Buddhist thought? This panel engages Foucault’s definition of “thought” as “freedom in relation to what one does, the motion by which one detaches from it, establishes it as an object, and reflects on it as a problem.” The papers will reevaluate Buddhist polemical encounters as well as consider the obstacles and possibilities for exchange in the university classroom, and the engagement of Buddhist ideas in contemporary public spaces.


● Buddhism and Media, Contact: Brooke Schedneck (Rhodes College), schedneckb@rhodes.edu -
How are Buddhism, Buddhist monks, and Buddhist scandals portrayed in local and global media? This panel aims to provide a comparative perspective to these question with presentations analyzing different countries.


Later Tiantai Buddhism in China, Contact: Lang Chen (Hong Kong Polytechnic University): lang.chen@polyu.edu.hk -
This panel will bring together papers on Tiantai Buddhism after the Song Dynasty down to the present day. (Co-sponsored with the Chinese Religions Unit).


● Contributions of Asian Immigrant Buddhists to the West, Contact: Trung Huynh (University of Huston): thuynh28@cougarnet.uh.edu

● Innovations in Buddhist Monastic Education and the Monastic Curriculum Throughout the Buddhist World, Contact: Manuel López (New College of Florida): mlopezzafra@ncf.edu

● Buddhism & Digital Humanities, Contact: Jann Ronis (Buddhist Digital Resource Center): jann@tbrc.org

● The Kālacakra Tradition in India and beyond, Contact: Vesna Wallace (UCSB): vwallace@religion.ucsb.edu

● Buddhism and Nationalism, Contact: Rachel Pang (Davidson College): rhpang@davidson.edu - This panel seeks papers on the relationship between Buddhism and Nationalism in different cultural contexts.


● Scholars of Buddhism within Buddhist Communities, Contact: Chuck Jones (The Catholic University of America): jonesc@cua.edu, James Robson & Reiko Ohnuma, Co-Chairs, Buddhism Unit

The Specter of Idealism in the Study of Japanese Religions: Beyond the Practice-Belief Dichotomy, Ethan Bushelle: Ethan.Bushelle@wwu.edu

Representations of Buddhism in Contemporary Japanese Literature and Media

Papers would discuss various aspects of Buddhism (or Japanese religions) as characterized in particular books, movies, anime, manga, online environments, etc. These might include, for example, any of Genyū Sokyū's novels, Zazen Girl by Taguchi Randy, Yumemakura Baku's series on Kūkai or the 2017 movie based on it, Legend of the Demon Cat, anime series (and manga) such as Saints Young Men, manga depicting founders of religious traditions and other Buddhists (e.g., the 2018 manga Zen: Shaku Sōen), etc. Papers could also focus on Buddhism in the writings of Ishimure Michiko, who passed in February 2018.

Ronald Green: rgreen@coastal.edu

Method: 
PAPERS
Process: 
Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members during review, but visible to chairs prior to final acceptance or rejection
Leadership: 
ChairSteering Committee