PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

To return to the Welcome Page, please click here.

For questions or support, email

To return to the AAR website, click here.

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 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 co-sponsorship 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.

Below are some of the themes that our members have proposed for next year. If you are interested in contributing to a proposal on one of these topics, please contact the organizer directly.

• Buddhist Universities in the United States
Kristin Scheible (Reed College) and José Cabezòn (UCSB). Contact:

• Author Meets Critics: José Ignacio Cabezón’s Sexuality in Classical South Asian Buddhism (Wisdom Publications, 2017)
Sarah Jacoby (Northwestern University). Contact:

• Buddhist Narratives of Royalty and Rulers from around the Buddhist World
Papers involving Buddhist ethics are especially sought after; in addition to textual analysis, papers involving interdisciplinary approaches and visual materials are also encouraged. Dessi Vendova (Columbia University). Contact:

• Miniature Scriptures, Abbreviated Sutras, and Other Scripture-Related Religious Objects: Early and Medieval Popular Buddhism for Gaining Merit and Protection
Buddhism offers many historical examples of miniature scriptures and scripture-related objects for ritual and/or personal use, including character-based mandalas and mantras, small-size scriptures, objects containing only the titles of scriptures, short scriptures containing only the names of Buddhas, etc. Some were buried inside Buddha statues or miniature stupas. How were these small scriptures and objects used in ritual or personal empowerment? What are the socio-religious implications of these objects? Mariko Walter (ACANSRS). Contact:

• Buddhist-Muslim Conflicts
Conflicts between Buddhists and Muslims in both the contemporary period (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand), as well as in earlier periods. Possible co-sponsorship with the Comparative Approaches to Religion and Violence unit and/or the Contemporary Islam unit. Michael Jerryson (Youngstown State University). Contact:

• Arts of Citation in the Study of Buddhism
Citation lies at the heart of the practice of Buddhist commentary, infusing textual, oral, and visual forms of meaning-making. In turn, scholars of Buddhism themselves have generated patterns of citation in interpreting Buddhist texts and practices. Over time, these patterns have shaped our understanding of what Buddhism is. This panel explores patterns and diversions in both Buddhist and Buddhological arts of citation to reveal complex dynamics of creativity and re-invention underlying these acts of repetition. Rae Dachille (University of Arizona). Contact:

• Cultures of Buddhist Meditation
This panel will bring together research that addresses the specific modes in which meditation is and has been practiced in various corners of the Buddhist world, with the intention that thinking about and comparing Buddhism’s diverse cultures of meditation should bring new perspective to questions of meditation’s meaning and place within the tradition. David DiValerio (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee). Contact:

• Ahiṃsa (Non-Violence) and Metta (Loving-Kindness) Taught in the Classroom
Tanya Storch (University of the Pacific). Contact:

• Rethinking the “Pure Land in the Human Realm” 人間淨土
This panel will address two closely related topics. The first is correction of widespread scholarly misunderstandings of the idea of the Pure Land in the Human Realm as formulated by Taixu (1890-1947). The second is to see how heirs of Taixu such as Yinshun and Sheng Yen utilized the idea. Charles Jones (Catholic University of America). Contact:

• Revitalizing Buddhism in the Modern World
With regards to shifting demographics, laicization, and institutional reform. Jeff Schroeder (University of Oregon). Co-sponsorship with the Buddhism in the West Unit, the Buddhism Unit, and the Japanese Religions Unit. Contact:

• Buddhism and the History/Historiography of Science
New research in the history and development of scientific knowledge and inquiry within the Buddhist context. Relevant research would include topics at the intersection of Buddhism and the natural and social sciences (medicine, ecology, biology, psychology, linguistics, etc.), and research engaged with, or complicated by, theories and methods in the History of Science. Organizer: Devin Zuckerman (University of Virginia). Contact:

• Scripture and Debate on Vegetarianism and “Animal Ethics”
This panel will address diverse Buddhist perspectives on meat-eating that situate vegetarianism within larger ethical frameworks and invest it with various degrees of moral significance. Panelists will present scholarship across Asian traditions from the ancient to the modern and represent both anthropological and text-critical methodologies. Anna Johnson (University of Michigan). Contact:

• Buddhist Social Networks in Premodern Japan (co-sponsored by the Japanese Religions Unit)

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