PAPERS Resources

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

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  • Preconference Workshop
  • Professional Development
Buddhist Contemplation Workshop
Theme: Teaching Buddhist Contemplation in Higher Education
Gloria I-Ling Chien, Gonzaga University, Presiding
Friday - 2:00 PM-5:30 PM
Convention Center-7A (Upper Level West)

There has been an increased interest in the applications of contemplative activities in the Buddhist studies classroom. Yet, what kinds of learner-centered projects can we offer students that will help them experience Buddhist meditation? How can we connect Buddhist contemplation to broad social issues? Also, how do we teach meditation "safely"?

This workshop aims to address those questions and explore contemplative pedagogy in teaching Buddhism. We will include a round table discussion and activities that will offer participants several methods they can adapt for their own teaching. Presenters will discuss strategies such as the “Warrior’s Exam,” a contemplation curriculum, a Cognitively-based Compassion Training program, creating a safe contemplation environment, and bridging Buddhist contemplation with gender equality or social justice issues.

This workshop contributes to scholarly conversations about the challenges, reflections, and praxis of Buddhist contemplative pedagogy in higher education. Please contact Gloria Chien at for questions.

Gloria I-Ling Chien, Gonzaga University
Namdrol Miranda Adams, Maitripa College
Jane Compson, University of Washington, Tacoma
Amelia Hall, Naropa University
Karma Lekshe Tsomo, University of San Diego
Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy
Theme: Coming Together over the Ganges: Raimon Panikkar Symposium-Gerry Larson Memorial
Young-chan Ro, George Mason University, Presiding
Michiko Yusa, Western Washington University, Presiding
Friday - 3:00 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 310A (Third Level)

The 2019 SACP panel, to be held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the AAR in San Diego, will combine the Raimon Panikkar Symposium and the memorial tribute to Gerry Larson, who was the past President of the SACP, 1982-85. Besides, many members of the Panikkar Symposium were Gerry Larson's friends and colleagues.
In the Panikkar Symposium we will address the urgent issue of climate change, and how various religious and philosophical traditions respond to the present-day crisis and what insight, solutions, and actions they may suggest. The aim of this session is to compile the "sutras on climate change"—something similar to the "Nine Sutras on Peace" (in Panikkar, Cultural Disarmament: The Way to Peace, 1995). Such a concise presentation of key ideas may turn out to be helpful as the sutras may guide us to practical insight, leading to action. When completed, we hope to upload the "Sutras on Climate Change" on the SACP website (and other possible sites), so that they may be available to the colleagues who are engaged in Intercultural and interdisciplinary philosophical endeavor.
In the second half of the panel, we honor and remember our dear colleague, Gerald Larson, who passed in April of this year. It will begin with the presentation of some personal letters exchanged Raimon Panikkar and Gerald Larson over the years. Next, the panel will feature two scholarly papers on Sāṃkhya and Yoga to pay tribute to Gerry's lasting academic contribution.
The session will conclude as we engage in floor discussion and initiate the actual work of compiling the "sutras on climate change." We will have a short business meeting to finish off this year's meeting.

3 p.m. Opening Welcome: Young-chan Ro and Michiko Yusa

3:05 p.m. – 4:50 p.m. (each presenter has 15 minutes)
Part I: Ecosophy (Raimon Panikkar's Cosmo-The-Anthropic Worldview): practical suggestions from the religious traditions on climate change
Islam — Abdulaziz Sachedina, George Mason University
Zen Buddhism & Nishida— Michiko Yusa, Western Washington University
Confucianism—Young-chan Ro, George Mason University
Hinduism—Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame
Asian Christianity: "Pope Francis' Encyclical and Asian Catholic Churches"—Peter Phan, Georgetown University
Praxis: Panikkarian Earth Liturgy—Diane Pendola & Yakshi Vadeboncoeur, Skyline, California
Contemporary Western Philosophical Perspective— Roberta Cappellini, CIRPIT Italy
Contemporary Western Christian Cosmology of Creation—Andrew Thrasher, Birmingham University
4:50-5:00 p.m. break

5 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
Part II: Remembering Gerry Larson
5:00-5: 10 p.m.
Michiko Yusa, "Gerry and Raimundo: Remembering Gerry Larson"
5:10-5:25 p.m.
Milena Carrera, President of Vivarium, custodian of Panikkar's papers: "Prof. Larson and Panikkar at UCSB, some letter exchanges"
5:25-5:50 p.m.
Lara Mitias, Antioch College: "Dualisms East and West: Resolving Cartesian problems with the insights of Samkhya-Yoga" (includes QA)
5:50-6:15 p.m.
Geoffrey Ashton, U. of San Francisco: “Recuperating the Life of Nature in the Sāṃkhya Kārikā: A Reconsideration of Gerald Larson’s Theory of Prakṛti through the Lens of Goethe’s Organics” (includes QA)
6:15-6:20 p.m.
Short announcement (5 minutes)
6:20-6:30 p.m. break

6:30-6:50 p.m.
Part III: Reflections: Scholarly Responsibility in Addressing Climate Change
Floor discussion & drafting of Intrareligious, intercultural responses in "sutra-form"—the purpose of this exercise is to summarize what we may learn from diverse religious-philosophical traditions. We will take Panikkar's "Nine sutras on peace" as a model.

6:50-7:00 p.m.
North-American Panikkar Group Business Meeting, presided by Young-chan Ro and Peter Phan

Abdulaziz Sachedina, George Mason University
Practical Suggestions from Islam on Climate Change


Michiko Yusa, Western Washington University
Practical Suggestions from Zen Buddhism and Nishida on Climate Change


Young-chan Ro, George Mason University
Practical Suggestions from Confucianism on Climate Change


Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame
Practical Suggestions from Hinduism on Climate Change


Peter C. Phan, Georgetown University
Practical Suggestions from Asian Christianity on Climate Change: Pope Francis' Encyclical and Asian Catholic Churches


Diane Pendola, Skyline, California
Yakshi Vadeboncoeur, Skyline, California
Praxis: Panikkarian Earth Liturgy


maria roberta cappellini, CIRPIT Centro Interculturale Raimon Panikkar Italia
Practical Suggestions from the Contemporary Western Philosophical Perspective on Climate Change


Andrew Thrasher, Birmingham University
Practical Suggestions from the Contemporary Western Christian Cosmology of Creation on Climate Change


Michiko Yusa, Western Washington University
Gerry and Raimundo: Remembering Gerry Larson


MIlena Carrera, Vivarium
Prof. Larson and Panikkar at UCSB, Some Letter Exchanges


Lara Mitias, Antioch College
Dualisms East and West: Resolving Cartesian Problems with the Insights of Samkhya-Yoga


Geoffrey Ashton, University of San Francisco
Recuperating the Life of Nature in the Sāṃkhya Kārikā: A Reconsideration of Gerald Larson’s Theory of Prakṛti through the Lens of Goethe’s Organics


Business Meeting:
Young-chan Ro, George Mason University
Peter C. Phan, Georgetown University
Animals and Religion Unit and Confucian Traditions Unit
Theme: Animals, Real and Imagined, in Chinese Religions: In the Late Antique and Medieval Periods
Aaron Stalnaker, Indiana University, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire P (Fourth Level)

For too long, scholars have neglected the cultural, social, economic, ecological, and political importance of animals in past societies. This has been particularly true about pre-modern East Asia. The past six years, though, have witnessed a flurry of international conferences and publications that have focused on animals in East Asia’s past. This panel’s purpose is to further amplify and contribute to this trend by focusing on how late antique and medieval Chinese envisioned and interacted with animals. The panel’s presenters will talk about the symbolism of animals on the seals of officials; why the macaque monkey lost its sanctity in China; why a Confucian scholar attacked Buddhism by arguing for human exceptionalism; how Daoists dealt with and made use of wild tigers; how fantastic tales about human and animals relations reveal something about non-human selves; and why the magical birds in Amitābha’s paradise, Sukhāvatī, were so popular.

Yukinobu Abe, Chuo University
Animal Symbols on the Knob of Seals during the Han Dynasty: Tiger, Turtle, Camel, and Snake

During the Han, high-ranking official seals had an animal-shaped knob—a tiger, turtle, camel, or snake. This paper reveals the relationship between these animal symbols and Confucianism. As for the tiger and turtle, some Confucian documents likened the overwhelming power of the tiger to the monarch’s authority and emphasized the turtle’s humility as a subject’s ideal attitude. Consequently, the tiger- and turtle-shaped knobs were based on the Confucian ethics for the ruler and ruled. Regarding the snake 蛇 and camel 駝, these two characters both have a part indicating the sound ta 它, which means “the other.” At the end of the Western Han, Confucians stressed the need to distinguish the inner space from the outer space to manifest the concentric square models of the Confucian worldview. This led the Han to choose the snake and camel to represent outsiders.

Xurong Kong, Kean University
Macaque: Your God, My Pet

Based on textual analysis and intellectual history of the five rhapsodies on the monkeys, this project traces the linguistic and cultural origins of macaques to Indian, Tibetan, and Qiang groups; and reveals how Chinese elites welcomed this entertaining animal while filtering its religious values so that macaque eventually become a popular Chinese animal image.

Keith Knapp, The Citadel
People Are Special, Animals Are Not: An Early Medieval Confucian’s Views on the Difference between Humans and Beasts

Early Confucians viewed their world in an anthropocentric way – man was an embodiment of the cosmos and embodied the virtues of benevolence and righteousness. By the early medieval period (220-589), though, Confucian tales of virtuous animals flourished, betraying that Confucian attitudes towards animals had changed. One of the few early medieval Confucian thinkers who spoke at length about animals was He Chengtian 何承天 (370-447). His view of what separates humans from animals comes from letters and essays he wrote attacking Buddhism. In attempt to refute the idea that humans and animals are both sentient beings, he espouses the old belief that man has a privileged place in the moral universe. Ironically, man’s benevolence and righteousness appears in the humane ways that people hunt and fish. He Chengtian’s opposition to Buddhism then seems to have pushed him to a more extreme view of animals than his contemporaries.

Huaiyu Chen, Arizona State University
Daoist Engagement with Tigers in Medieval China

As the apex predators in the ecological system in medieval China, tigers posed a challenge to the local communities and Daoist hermits who lived in rural areas and mountains. Medieval Daoists developed some new discourses and strategies for dealing with the so-called tiger violence problem. These were shaped and reshaped by the Daoist textual and doctrinal traditions, the everyday experience of living with the natural environment and animals, the interactions with the local community, and the competition with Buddhists. Reading medieval Daoist hagiographical sources shows that Daoists regarded tigers as companions, threats, and weapons in their daily and religious life. Some medieval Daoists transformed tigers into companions for their reclusive practice as hermits in the mountains, while others confronted the tigers as violent threats to local communities. By taming fierce tigers, Daoists helped maintain social-ecological order and eased the tension between humans and wild animals to serve local communities.

Robert Campany, Vanderbilt University
Animal Tales as Ecologies of Selves and of Human-Animal Relationships

This paper offers a rethinking of the corpus of early medieval anecdotes of animal/human, plant/human, and insect/human interactions. How should we understand these narratives? Conventional readings might construe a story of an exchange of favors between a man and an ant, for example, as a charming projection of uniquely human, cultural values (for instance, the value of bao or reciprocity) and the uniquely human process of sign-making onto the sign-less, self-less, aim-less nonhuman world of nature. In such a reading, the story has only human beings and culture to be about. My rethinking, informed by recent studies in the “anthropology of life” and the rejection of the nature/culture dyad and grounded in an understanding of all life as semiosis, argues that we are entitled to read such anecdotes instead as being about intersubjective interactions between mutually sign-wielding, intention-driven beings—selves.

Kendall Marchman, University of Georgia
A Little Bird Told Me: The Magical Birds of the Pure Land

In its description of Amitābha’s Pure Land, Sukhāvatī, the Amituo jing 阿彌陀經 briefly features the exotic and beautiful birds that reside there within its lush landscape. The birds sing the dharma to the inhabitants reborn in Sukhāvatī; however, because the Pure Land lacks the lower destinations of rebirth (including animals), the birds are nothing more than magical manifestations of Amitābha’s power. Despite their brief appearance in the scripture, the Pure Land birds captured the imagination of many Chinese Buddhists. This paper will consider how Pure Land apologetic literature in medieval China discussed these birds in their comparisons of Sukhāvatī to other potential rebirth destinations, and how the literature influenced the visual imagery of the Pure Land, in which the birds feature prominently.

Buddhism Unit and Religion and Disability Studies Unit
Theme: Buddhism and Disability Studies: Critical Analysis and Constructive Thought on Disability and the Disabled Body in Buddhist Traditions
Carol S. Anderson, Kalamazoo College, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-21 (Upper Level East)

This panel brings Buddhist Studies into productive conversation with Disability Studies through a critical analysis of disability in a diverse range of Buddhist traditions. The papers examine how the disabled and the disabled body—such as those with sensory and learning impairments—are constructed and marginalized within ableist ideologies that support Buddhist philosophies and practices of liberation. At the same time, the papers seek to go beyond critical analysis to engage constructively with Buddhist traditions to find alternative and counter-hegemonic spaces in which Buddhism itself provides critical resources to challenge ableism and promote inclusion and social justice.

Alexander Hsu, University of Notre Dame
Why Panthaka Can’t Read: Learning Disability and Liberation in A Grove of Pearls

Buddhism often privileges wisdom above all. But what if a person appears constitutionally unable to develop wisdom? The figure of Panthaka, a primary disciple of the Buddha who cannot memorize a single gāthā, challenges Buddhists to reckon with ableism and live up to the dharma’s universalizing promise. The scholar-monk Daoshi made Panthaka central to his chapter on “Stupidity” (yugang) in his Grove of Pearls from the Garden of Dharma, the landmark Chinese Buddhist anthology of 668. I argue that Daoshi’s collection of extracts on Panthaka produces new reflection on learning disability and its affordances for religious instruction. The karmic explanations for “why Panthaka can’t read” would seem to blame the learning disabled for their own impairments. But Daoshi’s extracts tutor their readers to radically reconfigure the “idiot” (cūḍa) in relation to the hoarding of dharma, the arrogance of an exclusivist sangha, and the foundational idiocies all suffering derives from.

Charles B. Jones, Catholic University of America
No Braille Signage in Sukhāvatī? Pure Land Buddhist Teachings about Sensory Impairments

The famous 48 vows of he Larger Sukhāvatī-vyūha sutra state that beings with defective or incomplete sense-organs shall not attain rebirth in the Pure Land of the Buddha Amitābha, a restriction that later Buddhist writers equated with the stricture against women. In this presentation, the author will examine the wording of this vow in the sutra and then trace its reception and interpretation through a variety of traditional Chinese commentaries and treatises as well as by contemporary Pure Land teachers. In this exploration, we will discover why sensory impairment mattered more than other kinds of disabilities, and how the later tradition tried to soften this vow so as not to discourage those with such disabilities from seeking to attain rebirth in Sukhāvatī. It will conclude by seeing what assistance may be had from current Disability Studies theory in interpreting this belief.

Bee Scherer, Canterbury Christ Church University
"Ugly, Unsightly, Deformed…": Scriptural Ableism, Physiomoral Discourses, and Hermeneutical Strategies for Buddhist Dis/ability Advocacy

In this paper, I investigate the possibilities of scriptural exegesis for Buddhist dis/ability advocacy. Buddhist foundational texts and popular homiletic discourses espouse a variety of discourses around physio-social normativities which in contemporary reading appear discriminatory and marginalizing, in terms of, among others, classism, (hetero-)sexism, and ableism. I am using Critical Disability Studies broadly conceived (Goodly 2017). Challenging simplistic and reductionist discourses on karman, I scrutinize ableist stock language and imagery of Buddhist foundational texts and, using the Lotus Sūtra as a test case, gauge the potential of translating and re-contextualizing popular elements of the “physiomoral discourse of the body” (Mrozik 2007, Ch. 4) into more nuanced karma theories and of adducing modifying and overriding soteriological principles. An applied exegesis of Buddhist foundational texts for dis/ability inclusion and social justice can hence emerge in dialogue with Christian Liberation Theology, Feminist, Queer and 'Crip' Theology; on textual, literary, philosophical and dharmological levels.

Justin Fifield, Trinity College
An Ethics of Care? Disability Discourses in South Asian Buddhist Monasticism

This paper examines how disability discourses in Indic Buddhist texts inform and construct ethical subjectivities of monastic praxis and communal ethics of care. Three modes of discourse are examined: hagiography, meditation teaching, and institutional law. Within these, there is a tension between the social formation of the monastic subject as male, able-bodied, and attractive and the experiential realization of the monastic body as sick, foul, and dis-abled. While this latter mode of subjectivity recognizes and, in some sense, embraces the variable body, it does so by objectifying and excluding the disabled body—making it into an object of perception and art—with serious ethical implications for the treatment of actual disabled bodies. This essay attends to this tension and ethical complexity with the goal of understanding the factors that produce and inhibit communal ethics of care. My on-going research specifically concerns care for sick and elderly monastics in Sri Lanka.

Stuart Chandler, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Armless Dharma Joy: An Analysis of the Memoirs of Ōishi Junkyō

On June 21, 1905 Nakagawa Manjirō, the proprietor of a popular geisha house in Osaka, went on a bloody rampage after discovering that his wife was having an affair with his nephew. Within fifteen minutes he had murdered five people. Only a seventeen-year-old apprentice geisha surnamed Ōishi survived, although both of her arms had been severed by her adoptive father’s samurai sword. Over the next six decades, Ōishi would become a vaudeville performer, poet and artist, wife and mother, and eventually a Shingon Buddhist nun. In this paper, I analyze the four versions of her autobiography to provide insight into how she employed Buddhist teachings to interpret the significance of her disability. To do so, I unpack her understanding of karma, mind-mudras, mind-hands, and skillful means. I conclude the paper by noting the symbolic import of Ōishi’s final act: donating her body to Kyoto University’s medical department.

Darla Schumm, Hollins University
Comparative Theology Unit and Karl Barth Society of North America
Theme: Karl Barth and Comparative Theology: An Unexpected Dialogue
Martha L. Moore-Keish, Columbia Theological Seminary, Presiding
Christian T. Collins Winn, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-26B (Upper Level East)

This panel session brings the theology of Karl Barth into dialogue with the field of comparative theology. In so doing, we recognize that we are drawing Barth into conversations that he himself would never have had. We also recognize that we are introducing into the field of comparative theology a thinker who has long been viewed with suspicion. Our wager in this experiment, however, is that both fields of study might benefit from such unlikely interchange.Three of the panelists will share their contributions to a forthcoming book on Barth and comparative theology, introduced by one of the editors of that volume, who will describe the project as a whole. Two panelists will then offer additional contributions to the work on Barth and comparative theology, opening and extending the conversation. Finally, a seasoned scholar of Karl Barth’s theology will offer responses to the panel as a whole.

James Farwell, Virginia Theological Seminary
Barth's Theology of Religion and Dogen's Nondualism


Joshua Ralston, University of Edinburgh
Analogies across Faiths: Barth and Ghazali on Speaking after Revelation

This paper (based on an essay in the forthcoming Barth and Comparative Theology volume) focuses on a conversation between Barth and Islam, beginning by frankly acknowledging Barth’s own harsh and dismissive comments about Islam and the possibility of Muslim-Christian dialogue. In spite of these comments, this paper will engage Barth (especially the early Barth) as a conversation partner in comparative theological work by placing his dialectical understanding of revelation as the veiling and unveiling of God in conversation with Ash’arite Sunni thinking about God and revelation, specifically Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s Al-Maqsad al-Asna (The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God). Both theologians affirm the particularity of revelation that comes only from God, and both reject the possibilities of any analogy of being (analogia entis). For both, to speak rightly about God is emphatically to speak “after revelation”—so analogy and reason may be used, but only in light of what God has first revealed (in Jesus Christ or in the Qur’an).In the end, this paper calls for theology to be done in a different tone than the triumphalism of Barth.

Wilhelmus Valkenberg, Catholic University of America
Shifting Concepts of "Religion" in Barth and the Qur'an

This fresh contribution to the conversation will discuss the hermeneutical shift in Barth's concept of religion from a more dialectic point of view in the Romans commentary (all religion is unbelief) to a more analogical approach (Christianity is the true religion) in the Kirchliche Dogmatik. The paper will discuss a similar shift from the critique of religion in the Qur'an to the glorification of Islam as religion and discuss whether this shift is related to literary genre and/or institutionalizing of religion.

Peng Yin, Harvard University
Karl Barth and Thomas Aquinas on "True Religion"

In its own intra-Christian comparative work, the presentation will engage Barth and Thomas Aquinas in conversation about the nature of “true religion.” Aquinas treats religion as a moral virtue under the aspect of justice. It is defined primarily to guide Christians to practice proper acts such as piety, adoration, prayer, and devotion and to avoid vices such as idolatry, superstition, sacrilege, and simony. While Karl Barth eschews the language of virtue, true religion for him requires Christians to maintain a disposition of “utter humble and thankful adoption of something which we would not attain if it were not already attained in God’s revelation.” Like non-Christians, albeit in a different form, Christians can be guilty of religion as unbelief by “opposition to revelation, and therefore active idolatry and self-righteousness” (CD 1.2, 327). True religion for Thomas and Barth is then not primarily defined in terms of stable ecclesial membership, creedal assent, or self-conscious identity distinguishing oneself from the non-Christian. This conception of true religion promises a non-competitive relationship between Christianity and other religions. Christians and non-Christians alike, according to this conception of true religion, have no comfortable identity guaranteeing true worship; they all pursue true religion in via through an arduous and ever-renewed process of moral and spiritual striving.

John Sampson, University of Toronto
Persons on the Way: Karl Barth and Comparative Theology in Dialogue with Classical Confucianism

Comparative theology has become an important practice in interreligious learning that engages another religious tradition while remaining thoroughly committed to one’s own. In examining another religion it defends a space for studies that are theological in intent. The unabashed commitment to practicing theology while at the same time abiding by theological standards was one of Karl Barth’s central concerns. While Barth himself only sparingly reflects on world religions, this paper explores Barth’s potential for practicing comparative theology in dialogue with Classical Confucianism, the ancient Chinese tradition founded by Confucius himself (551–479 BCE). By bringing Barth’s reflection on religion vis-à-vis revelation and his theological anthropology in dialogue with Classical Confucianism, this paper argues when we read the Four Books of Confucianism, and study closely the Confucian understanding of human relationality, we begin to see in a new light the basic form of humanity revealed in Jesus Christ.

Paul Dafydd Jones, University of Virginia
  • Exploratory Sessions
Exploratory Sessions
Theme: Translating Tibetan Buddhism
Andrew Quintman, Wesleyan University, Presiding
Kurtis Schaeffer, University of Virginia, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 410B (Fourth Level)

Translation is fundamental to religion, and to the study of religion. Despite a growing body of literature theorizing the study of religion and its relationship to the practice of translation, currently there is no AAR unit devoted to translation. Translation thus remains an undertheorized practice at the AAR despite its centrality to Religious Studies. This exploratory session addresses this lack by leveraging the intense energy currently running through the field of Tibetan Buddhist Studies, which has become a major cultural, economic, and intellectual force within the sphere of global Buddhism. We propose to bring together stakeholders to critically assess the past, present, and especially the future of translation. We seek to promote translation practice as a conceptually rich space in which to reflect upon multiple scholarly, philosophical, social, cultural, and political issues in the study of and global engagement with Buddhism, and in the study of religion more broadly.

Holly Gayley, University of Colorado
Amelia Hall, Naropa University
Sarah Harding, Naropa University
Sarah Jacoby, Northwestern University
Anne C. Klein, Rice University
Unregistered Participant
Marcus Perman, Tsadra Foundation
Unregistered Participant
Unregistered Participant
Nicole Willock, Old Dominion University
Tom Yarnall, Columbia University
Global-Critical Philosophy of Religion Seminar
Theme: Global-Critical Philosophy of Religion: Multi-Entry Teaching Manual
Timothy D. Knepper, Drake University, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-206 (Second Level)

This session showcases contributions to a volume of collected essays that will serve as a teaching manual for courses in philosophy of religion that embrace a global-critical approach. The sixteen chapters of this volume will collectively explore sixteen diverse approaches to global-critical philosophy of religion. Each chapter will introduce a philosophical system, contextualize it in a specific religious tradition, outline how philosophy of religion would be envisioned from this standpoint, and assess other approaches from this standpoint.

Gereon Kopf, Luther College
Practices, Transformation, and Language Games: Religion without an Essence

This paper introduces a non-essentialist paradigm of envisioning philosophy of religion as rooted in the Zen Buddhist tradition.

Jin Y Park, American University
Derrida, Zen Buddhism, and the Act of Religion

“When you see the Buddha, kill the Buddha. When you see a Patriarch, kill the patriarch.” The 9th century Chinese Chan Master Linji is famously recorded to have declared this in his Recorded Sayings of Linji. A challenge to the status quo and reifying mode of thinking is at the core of Buddhism, and in theory, Chan is the highpoint of that side of Buddhism (the history of Chan/Sŏn/Zen Buddhism tells us a different story.) Derrida’s approach to religion has received the name “a religion without religion.” Derrida deconstructs the metaphysics that functions as the foundation of religious doctrines. Without a metaphysical foundation, and with Chan challenge to any form of reification, where would religion anchor itself? Through a comparative study of Derrida and Zen Buddhism, this paper considers some of main issues in the philosophy of religion, including the meaning of a prayer, salvation, and religion itself.

Oludamini Ogunnaike, College of William and Mary
Knots in the Real: An Akbari "Philosophy of Religion"

This paper introduces the humanist (insani) paradigm of envisioning philosophy and religion as rooted in the Akbari tradition. A Contribution to the manual 'A Multi-Entry Approach to Philosophy of Religion'

Leah Kalmanson, Drake University
Philosophizing "Religion" through Qi-Cosmology

This paper introduces the non-dualistic paradigm of envisioning philosophy of religion as rooted in qi-cosmology.

Marie-Helene Gorisse, Ghent University
Proper Acts, Knowledge, and Categories in Jainism: Reshaping Traditional Distinctions

This paper introduces the renunciate paradigm of envisioning philosophy of religion as rooted in Jainism. Jainism is a non-theistic tradition worshiping liberated omniscient beings. I will first argue that its core belief is that everyone can clear her innately all-knowing Self from obstacles to knowledge and that the acquisition of higher epistemic abilities is ensured by a moral behavior consisting in renunciation from passions and the corresponding destruction of karman – a subtle type of matter that expresses the consequences of our acts and acts like a filter distorting knowledge. Second, I will indicate how in Jainism, the behaviour required of human beings is implied in the very accounts of the world’s structure. Third, I will establish that departing from the characterisation of correct action can bring about a meaningful categorization, from which the distinction between philosophy and religious traditions, or theistic and non-theistic ones, loses its traditional relevance.

Unregistered Participant
Relationalism (Lakota)

This paper introduces the relational paradigm of envisioning philosophy or religion as rooted in the Lakota tradition.

Unregistered Participant
Rethinking Conventional Approaches in Philosophy of Religion: Classification, Comparison, Appropriation

The presentation will work through three conventions by which philosophers of religion - both the so-called "analytic" and "continental" traditions - have approached their practices and their data. Critical theory will be presented as a way to understand how the politics of the sub-field is structured through scholarly powers of classification, comparison and appropriation. While presentation does not offer an escape from or bypass around politics and power in scholarly work, since immunity from these complications has historically formed the appeal of claims to transcendental or analytical refinement. Options for "critical philosophy of religion" will include practices of reevaluating histories of ideas in the sub-field in light of advances made by applications of critical theory to other areas of religious studies.

Nikky Singh, Colby College
Sikh Scripture and Sacred Synesthesia

This paper introduces the synesthetic paradigm of envisioning philosophy or religion as rooted in the Sikh tradition. Both the academy and the community have focused on Sikh theological message and ethical teachings. A synesthetic approach to Sikh devotional practice and ideals has been utterly glossed over. Cosmic melodies, sounds of nature, musical instruments, and biological rhythms of the body reverberate across the 1430 pages of Sikh scripture. In love for the transcendent Divine, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling fuse powerfully together into a “sacred synesthesia” (syn/union + aisthesis/sensation). In fact we can even hear the First Guru define it:
Eyes are getting drunk on Yours
Ears realize Your awareness
Tongue tastes Your elixir
Steeping in You, passionate crimson
Your fragrance seeps deep inside
Who can assess its price!
(Guru Granth Sahib:1091)
My paper explores the sensuous quintet, “the five birds of the body.” Fully embodied, the sensory experience is an ontological and epistemological realization of the universal Divine.

Nathan Eric Dickman, Young Harris College
Symbolic Language (Tillichian Approach)

This paper introduces the symbolic language paradigm of envisioning philosophy and religion as rooted in the tradition of Tillich's philosophical theology.

Peter Nekola, Luther College
"Religions," "Philosophies," and the Problem of Mapping

"This paper introduces the geographical paradigm of envisioning philosophy of religion as rooted in the modern cartographic tradition"

Business Meeting:
Gereon Kopf, Luther College
Timothy D. Knepper, Drake University
Religion in Southeast Asia Unit
Theme: Challenging Religious Establishments: Scandal, Transgression, and Sousveillance in Contemporary Southeast Asia
Bahar Davary, University of San Diego, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 303 (Third Level)

This panel explores religious bodies as sites for disciplinary performance within Buddhist, Islamic, and Hindu communities in contemporary Southeast Asia. These contested bodies challenge religious establishments in ways both celebrated and condemned. Paper topics include media coverage of Thai monastic body shapes and gender performance, the feminist and Islamic competing narratives of gender equality in Indonesia, and challenges to Hindu priestly authority in Bali, Indonesia. These three ethnographic case studies raises questions regarding how religious communities in contemporary Southeast Asia relate to powerful institutions. Furthermore, this panel asks: how should scholars of religion best approach issues of embodiment, gender performance, and ritual display?

Brooke Schedneck, Rhodes College
Everyday Scandals: Regulating the Buddhist Monastic Body in Thai Media

The regulation of monastic behavior is an abundant topic in Thai media. Although major monastic scandals involving sex, drugs, and money make the biggest impact within Thai society, ‘everyday scandals’ of misbehaving monks appear regularly in Thai media outlets. Many of these scandals involve an inappropriate display of the monastic body, followed by discussion of whether monks are too fat or if they are behaving in overly masculine or feminine ways. This presentation is an analysis of Thai Buddhist society’s regulating impulse of the monastic body. Through a selection of English and Thai language articles from the years 2013-2018, I investigate these ‘everyday scandals’ involving Buddhist monks’ bodily performance. Although not as sensational as senior monastic arrests or monks involved in multi-million baht financial scandals, these ‘everyday scandals’ contribute to the feeling of a crisis in Thai Buddhism.

June McDaniel, College of Charleston
Authority and Performance in Bali: Pedandas vs the New Age

In Bali, Indonesia, the major traditional religious authorities are the Hindu pedandas or high priests, who guide their communities on issues of both public and private concern. They must go through initiation and years of training, and learn the ritual of suryasevana, in which they mystically unite each morning with the god Siva. This ritual performance allows them to create the holy water which is required for all Hindu rituals in Bali.
However, over the past few decades they have been challenged by Hindu teachers and gurus from outside of Bali. These figures bring alternative types of Hinduism, with vegetarianism (Balinese Hindus eat meat), emotional exuberance (Balinese Hinduism emphasizes discipline rather than passion), and wealthy Western disciples of modern Indian gurus who claim to have the ‘true’ Hinduism. Can Balinese tradition stand against this challenge for the next generation?

Etin Anwar, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Debating Equalities: Islamic and Feminist Contestations in Indonesia

I will discuss how the New Order’s state, women’s movements, and feminist activism produce and reclaim what each consider as the sphere of gender equality. I situate the competing spheres of gender equality within the contexts of the intellectual responses to the imposition of Pancasila as the state ideology. I show how this intersection leads to the integrative process of both Islam and feminism as an ethical paradigm to promote women’s emancipation in Indonesia. In the 1980s, the state solidified the political and social order by reinforcing Pancasila as the sole foundation (azas tunggal) in Indonesia’s socio-political life and the 1985 Election Law. The state imposition of Pancasila restructured Muslims and their relationship to the state in the public sphere and bolstered the debates on Islam and politics. The variations in Muslim intellectual responses toward the relationship between Islam and state intersected with the way Muslim women’s movements and feminist activism responded toward the state’s imposition of gender order. Although Muslim women’s movements emphasized on the importance of enacting a paternalistic model of Islam and the state's gender order, they recognized the spiritual equality between men and women. This recognition allows for a dialogue with feminism as both Islam and feminism converge on perceiving men and women as ethical agents.

Thomas Patton, City University of Hong Kong
Business Meeting:
Alexandra Kaloyanides, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
  • Full Papers Available
Transnational Religious Expression: Between Asia and North America Seminar
Theme: Authenticity and Appropriation: Transnational Religion amid Competing Forces of Identity and Authority
Merin Shobhana Xavier, Queen's University, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 310A (Third Level)

How is transnational religious expression impacted by competing ideas of identity, authority, authenticity, and appropriation? How can we address these complex factors in our scholarship? The third meeting of our five-year seminar brings together scholars working across multiple traditions, geographies, and eras to share insights into these issues, the “messiness” of transnational religion, and the multidirectional processes that complicate institutional, national, and cultural boundaries as religious ideas, technologies, and actors move between Asia and North America. As in previous years, papers will be posted in advance on the AAR website to ensure ample time for discussion during our meeting. We welcome new and returning participants to this ongoing conversation.

Scott Mitchell, Institute of Buddhist Studies
Mid-Century Modern: Transnational Japanese-American Buddhism

This study focuses on a mid-twentieth century newsletter-cum-literary journal, The Berkeley Bussei. Following the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the Bussei, an annual publication of the Berkeley Buddhist Temple, published essays by temple members and Beat Generation poets and writers. Interspersed between poetry and gossip columns were serious reflections on the nature of American Buddhism, reflections voiced from the intersection of race and religion. This paper focuses on contributions by young Japanese Americans traveling between the United States and Japan and demonstrates the complexity of interstitial identities in the post-war years, identities forged at the intersection of race, religion, and transnationalism. I argue that attention to the development of a specifically Japanese-American Buddhist identity productively complicates our understanding of both American Buddhism and Buddhist modernism.

Jeyoul Choi, University of Florida
Transnationalism and First Generation Korean-American Evangelical Protestantism: A Case Study

Studies of first generation Korean-American Protestant churches in the United States have often monolithically depicted these churches as diasporic socio-cultural spaces that primarily reproduce Korean ethnicity, while neglecting to pay attention to their transnational character. I identify disagreements over theology and church administration that separate church members into pejorative ethnic “Koreanness” vs. more desirable assimilated “United Methodist” camps. In this theo-political struggle, the term “Korean churches” is employed as a transnational resources to identify “degrading/outdated aspects” of the congregation, while the appropriation of United Methodism’s “modernizing/advanced aspects” is seen by many as a more “authentic” Christian development. These local intra-church disagreements and their appropriations of these terms, in turn, point to larger transnational debates within Korean-American Protestantism.

Anya Foxen, California Polytechnic State University, SLO
Rhizomes and Inosculations: Untangling Modern Postural Yoga

This paper is based on a larger project that seeks to reconfigure the historiography of modern postural yoga. The basic premise is that if we are to understand modern yoga as a transnational practice, then we must examine its host contexts with equal rigor to its previously established Indian roots. When we do so, we discover a Western history of practice that was overwritten by the imported language of yoga, thereby becoming invisible. In this form, it has continually been used to inform and occasionally to colonize the category of Indian yoga. Modern transnational yoga is ultimately a deeply syncretized and amalgamate entity resulting from the interaction of Indian yogic traditions with this Western body of thought and practice, among others. Thus, in debates over appropriation, it is a profound mistake to treat the dominant culture as a tabula rasa onto which distorted versions of colonized practices are simply imposed.

Troy Mikanovich, Claremont Graduate University
Leveraging Authenticity at the 2018 Parliament of the World's Religions

By articulating its project as the promotion of “interreligious harmony, rather than unity,” the Parliament of the World's Religions recognizes the way that religious particularity is complicated by any haphazard mandate for pluralism. However, because the Parliament engages the public through a variety of modes—operating as a theological conference, a gathering place for social activists, and an occasion for spiritual tourism—issues of authenticity and appropriation are necessarily animated, with the lines between “harmony” and “unity” blurring into something more challenging, still. Drawing from interview data gathered at the 2018 meeting of the Parliament of the World's Religions in Toronto, this paper will argue that, in such a context, religious authenticity does not merely exist as a quality to be measured between competing traditions. Rather, it becomes available as a leveraging quantity—one that can be selectively deployed to support marginalized traditions or, ironically, to justify an embattled posture against perceived orthodoxy.

Elizabeth Williams-Oerberg, University of Copenhagen
The “Messiness” of Religious Belonging at Transnational Tibetan Buddhist Lineage Anniversaries in Ladakh, India

The summer months in the Northwest Indian region of Ladakh bring hundreds of thousands of visitors who wish to experience the ‘Last Shangri-La’, or the last remaining bastion of Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh become main tourism destinations during the short tourist season. Tibetan Buddhist leaders who spend the large part of the year touring Asia, North America and Europe come to Ladakh during these busy summer months, and at times preside over larger monastery festivals or events. At such occasions, a wide variety of audience are present – from Ladakhi Buddhists whose families have been patrons of the monasteries and their lineages for generations, to transnational pilgrims who visit this Himalayan Buddhist area for the first time in order to catch a glimpse of these renowned Buddhist teachers. While at first glance these varieties of audience seem entirely distinct, in taking a closer look, the “messiness” of religious belonging becomes acutely apparent.

Elijah Siegler, College of Charleston
Business Meeting:
Lucas Carmichael, University of Colorado
Body and Religion Unit and Religion and Food Unit
Theme: Religion, Food, and Bodily Practices
Yudit K. Greenberg, Rollins College, Presiding
Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Convention Center-26B (Upper Level East)

This panel explores specific case studies related to the ways food and food practices interact with the cultivating of particular embodied religious experiences. The case studies include an ethnographic analysis of participants in an International Ladies Association of Buddhism in Kamakura, Japan whose food practices shape understandings of Buddhist truths caught between assumptions related to Japanese culture and transnational forms of Buddhism. A second ethnographic study offers insights into rituals performed at Kamakhya Temple in Assam, India that focus on feeding young girls who embody the goddess. Two other papers revisit primary sources to provide nuanced readings of the theological role of digestion in “table-talks” given in the Oneida Community in the 1800s and the underexamined aspect of diet on Muslim bodies in medieval Islamic adab literature.

Gwendolyn Gillson, Oberlin College
Consuming Buddhism: Women and Transnational Buddhist (Dis)Connections through Food and Body

Food is often a marker of religious belonging (and exclusion), including in Buddhism. The International Ladies Association of Buddhism is a women’s group dedicated to learning about Buddhism and Japanese culture. Their practice involves learning Buddhist doctrine and the cultivation of bodies that express the effortless beauty of Buddhism. Drawing on interviews and participant observation, this paper illustrates the ways that women form their bodies into expressions of Buddhist truth through particular practices that include and often depend on food. These practices by-and-large bring women’s bodies together physically and emotionally, creating connections through shared embodied practices of food preparation and consumption. At the same time, food can also propel women’s bodies away from one another due to different understandings of Buddhism based in international, i.e. non-Japanese, expressions of Buddhism. These narratives of convergence and divergence help illustrate the complicated nature of food and embodiment, especially when crossing cultures and traditions.

Christa Shusko, York College of Pennsylvania
Divine Digestion: The Oneida Community’s Theology of Eating

Though the Oneida Community is most notorious for its sexual practices of male continence and complex marriage, the Community’s perspectives on food, eating, and digestion offer important insights into both its theological views and its socio-sexual reforms. Starting in September 1851, John Humphrey Noyes began delivering a series of “Table-Talks” during communal meals. Unlike Luther’s Table Talks, the majority of Noyes’s talks centered on the objects, processes, and physiology of eating as they related to the Community’s ultimate religious goal of perfection. Noyes wrote, “The power of Christ in us is prepared to deal with evil successfully, as Christ himself dealt with death. He digested death, entered into it, and overcame it perfectly.” In re-conceptualizing true Christianity as a kind of digestion, Noyes envisioned a Communal table which would—like the Community’s other reforms—reconcile spirit and matter.

E. Sundari Johansen Hurwitt, California Institute of Integral Studies
Voracious Virgin, Desirous Devi: Feeding the Kumārī as an Inversion of the Kaula Sex Ritual

The kumārī pūjā, ritual worship of a pre-menarche virgin girl as a temporary embodiment of the all-powerful goddess, is a popularly celebrated across India during the annual festival of Durgā, the great Hindu mother goddess. Feeding the kumārī is one of the most important aspects of this ritual, but why? Using a comparative analysis of a broad range of understudied Tantric texts and rare ethnographic ritual study of a living community of Tantric and orthodox Hindu practitioners at the Kāmākhyā temple in Assam, this paper argues that the ritual offering of food to the kumārī represents a publicly accessible, chaste, and highly coded inversion of the antinomian sexual rituals of Kaula Tantrism, which satisfy bodily desires in order to achieve a liberated state. The kumārī’s consumption of food thus represents a critical element in a covert cycle of enjoyment, secrecy, and power, which serves as an expression of Tantric identity.

Elizabeth Pérez, University of California, Santa Barbara
Business Meeting:
Kevin Schilbrack, Appalachian State University
Katherine C. Zubko, University of North Carolina, Asheville
Buddhism Unit and Chinese Religions Unit
Theme: Salvific Beasts: Buddhist Discourses on Liberating Animals in Medieval China
Anna Sun, Kenyon College, Presiding
Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 300A (Third Level)

This panel examines medieval Chinese Buddhist textual representations of nonhuman animals and human-animal relations, especially concerning how humans and animals assisted one another in attaining Buddhist liberation. Analysis of these discourses yields novel perspectives on Chinese Buddhist efforts to both define and dissolve boundaries between human, animal, and other realms of existence. While scholars often emphasize Chinese and Buddhist tendencies to anthropomorphize animals, the representations examined here also zoomorphized humans by defining their nature and behavior in terms of animalian relations. From this perspective, nonhuman animals played more active roles than typically understood in shaping Chinese Buddhist narratives of the natural world and human roles therein. And in particular, the papers on this panel highlight how, through their depictions of animals and human-animal encounters, medieval Chinese Buddhists developed ethical and soteriological paradigms that integrated species of sentient beings as well as traditional Chinese and Buddhist understandings of the animal-human-deity spectrum.

Kelsey Seymour, Yale University
Feathered and Fluent: The Liberation of Parrots through Human Speech in Medieval Chinese Buddhism

As one of the unfortunate destinies, rebirth as an animal promised a life of hardship. In addition to an existence of violence and fear, animals lacked the minds to understand Buddhist teachings and the physiology to engage in meritorious activities like chanting and copying scriptures. But parrots, with their ability to mimic speech, had access to these practices. In this paper, I will discuss medieval Chinese accounts of parrots using their vocal capability to chant scriptures and the Buddha’s name. I argue that because of this access to a human voice, medieval Buddhists believed that these parrots could transcend their animal bodies and achieve rebirth in a paradise through the same means a human being could. More broadly, this paper will touch on the difference between human and animal in a Buddhist context, and the role human beings played in helping to relieve animals of suffering and achieve liberation.

Alan Wagner, Collège de France
Dumb Animals? Comparing Chan and Tiantai Views of Animals' Abilities in Two Song Liturgies for Releasing Living Creatures

This paper compares Tiantai Patriarch Siming Zhili's (960-1028) well-known "Tract for Releasing Living Creatures" with a quite different one by Chan Master Layman Ruru (d. 1212). Both aim to assist animals toward their ultimate liberation from saṃsāra, but differ fundamentally in how they understand the animals' needs, reflecting their stances on larger questions of ethics and how liberation works, for both animals and humans.
Zhili's liturgy assumes that because animals' minds are deluded, they are unable to know the Buddha's teachings. By ritual invocation their impediments are lifted and they may then be taught the Dharma and repent their transgressions. Ruru's liturgy starts instead by showing that animals are actually already aware of the Dharma, and offers several examples of them striving to make merit. However, what they cannot do is to pronounce dhāraṇī properly, so his rite includes the recitation of four such spells on the animals' behalf.

Christopher Jensen, Carleton University
Moral Exemplars and Miraculous Responses: Rhetorics of Animal/Human Interaction in the Biographies of Eminent Monks Literature

This paper contributes to an ongoing conversation on Buddhist perception(s) of animals, and the multifarious relationships between animals and humans, by exploring the perspectives on the topic propounded in the early medieval Chinese hagiographical literature. By translating and analyzing accounts of Buddhist monks and laypeople interacting with dogs, deer, and other fauna included in Huijiao’s Liang Dynasty Biographies of Eminent Monks and Daoxuan’s Tang dynasty sequel, I aim to explore not only the role of animals in the lived experience of medieval Chinese Buddhists, but also the rhetorical agendas of these two compilers. For example, while both collections include narratives supporting the Buddhist prohibition on hunting, the tales in Huijiao’s collection tend to focus on empathy and reinforce the karmic episteme, whereas Daoxuan’s are much more concerned with miracles and stimulus-response causality [ganying]. The perspectives contained within these tales reflect broader editorial agendas within both collections.

Stuart Young, Bucknell University
A Silkworm Cosmology: The Ethics, Economics, and Samsaric Scope of Sericulture in Medieval Chinese Buddhism

In medieval China, silk was the fabric of Buddhist monasticism. Silk enmeshed Chinese Buddhist monastery environs, institutional economies, and literary discourses that helped shape Buddhist identities in China. This paper examines how Chinese Buddhists represented the nonhuman producers of silk, domesticated silkworms, as exemplifying both Buddhist and Chinese cosmological, ethical, and socioeconomic ideals. In Buddhist sources, silkworms were most often shown dying in their own cocoons for human want of silk, thus symbolizing the suffering and self-delusion of samsara. Although Buddhist authors typically decried this killing, silkworms also represented Chinese domesticity, traditional (gendered) values and cultural practices, so Buddhist authorities ultimately sanctioned silkworm cultivation and consumption. This paper demonstrates that, although the wide array of Buddhist silkworm images often mutually conflicted in this way, they shared the same function of advancing Buddhist institutional worldviews and interests as fully accordant with venerable Chinese norms, while also working to reshape those norms.

Huaiyu Chen, Arizona State University
Space, Place, and Religion Unit and Women and Religion Unit
Theme: Power, Gender, Place
Courtney Bruntz, Doane University, Presiding
Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Indigo 202A (Second Level)

Focusing on feminine deities in Buddhist cave sites and ritual texts. Creating ritual space in a highly gendered place. Cultivating equality at women-run Jewish farms. Fighting for equal space online and in local mosques. These gendered uses of space and place aim to generate, redistribute, or challenge power in various ways. A number of scholars have done work on the connections between religion, ritual, space/place, and power, and gender is increasingly an important element of these analyses. This panel continues the important work of scholars who have examined how gender affects and is affected by the organization, use, re-appropriation, and cultivation of religious spaces and places. We focus on how space and place can be used to generate, reinforce, redistribute, or subvert power by people of various genders. The papers on this panel demonstrate the ways that power, gender, and space/place are intimately connected in a variety of religious traditions.

Adrienne Krone, Allegheny College
Cultivation through Collaboration and Conservation: Gender and Power in Jewish Community Farming Spaces

The Jewish Community Farming (JCF) movement is grounded in an ethic of environmentalism and social justice but gender imbalances persist within the movement. I use ethnographic interviews and participant observation conducted at all of the JCF organizations to argue that the persistence of gender inequities is due to the replication of patriarchal power structures that recognize and reward the approaches to land stewardship that are favored by the men in the movement. I pay careful attention to the four JCF organizations led by women in Toronto, Canada, Boulder, Colorado, Los Angeles, California, and Boston, Massachusetts to discuss the distinctive approaches the woman-led farms take to land ownership and usage, which focus on collaboration and restoration over ownership and production. I also describe the JCF movement’s continued efforts to incorporate feminism into their visions in a continued effort to move North American Jews toward a more equitable and sustainable future.

Hillary Langberg, University of Texas
Enter the Goddess: The Transference of Ritual Power in the Mahāyāna-Related Sculpture of an Indian Buddhist Cave Site

This paper emphasizes the previously-understudied role of goddesses as advanced Bodhisattvas—compassionate savior figures—in Mahāyāna soteriology. It analyzes early examples of their sculptural representation alongside Buddhas and great male Bodhisattvas in the monastic caves of Kānherī (present-day Mumbai, ca. sixth century CE). Through a comparison of images carved in stone with a roughly contemporaneous ritual manual, the Mañjuśriyamūlakalpa, I suggest that we can better understand how female deities ultimately become objects of worship in Mahāyāna contexts, beyond being merely part of a late-stage appropriation of non-Buddhist divinities (as scholars have suggested with regard to goddesses in early tantric ritual families, or kulas). By bringing a previously untranslated passage of this text into conversation with the images, this study demonstrates the transference of power from one gender (and level of ritual hierarchy) to another, as represented in the spaces of this monastic site.

Matthew Mitchell, Allegheny College
Mutually Empowering: Displaying the Kami and Buddhas in the Women’s Quarters of the Shogun’s Castle in Early Modern Japan

In 1783 the nuns of Zenkōji Daihongan were invited to display their convent’s treasures in the Women’s Quarters of the Shogun’s castle. The nuns worked closely with administrators on the organization of allocated space to encourage the generation of a karmic connection between their Buddhist icon and the influential women of the castle. Daihongan’s nuns were not alone in this recreation of space. During Japan’s early modern period a number of Buddhist and Shintō clergy were invited to bring their icons into the shogun’s castle so the women there, many of whom were restricted in their movement, could meet the clergy, receive teachings, have rituals performed, and view the treasures. This was mutually empowering: the clergy received prestige and gifts from the women while the women developed connections with the religious world, enhance the standing of their lineages, and strive for success within the competitive atmosphere of the Women’s Quarters.

Krista Riley, Vanier College
Documenting, Changing, and Reimagining Women’s Mosque Spaces Online

The issue of mosque spaces in North America (and elsewhere), particularly with regard to gender, has received increasing attention in recent years, both within and outside of Muslim communities. This paper will focus on discussions about gendered mosque spaces taking place online. Taking as case studies three North American Muslim feminist bloggers, this paper examines how online and offline spaces interact, and how some Muslim women move in and out of these spaces in order to shift the gendered dynamics in their contexts. This paper will conclude with a reflection on what these examples can tell us about gender and power in online and offline spaces, and about the possibilities and limitations revealed as these conversations move between physical and online worlds.

Amy L. Allocco, Elon University
Tantric Studies Unit
Theme: Digital Tantra
Gregory Grieve, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Presiding
Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Indigo 202B (Second Level)

The study of digital media and religions is expanding at a fast pace. The so far highlighted approaches, methods, and themes within digital religion are numerous and diverse—nevertheless, within this range, it is noticeable that existing studies have largely centered on certain religious traditions. At present, we must include under-researched religious traditions. While contemporary Tantra is massively re-negotiated and increasingly transformed by digital media on many levels, studies on this theme are still relatively rare. The primary aim of this panel is to introduce and critically discuss various facets of Digital Tantra in a nuanced way—exemplifying the geographical diversity of the developments as well as the necessary methodical interdisciplinarity frameworks to study these. The papers are thus specifically selected in order to allow for interdisciplinary reflections that will help map out future research agendas and implications of the newly emerging research field of Digital Tantra.

Hugh B. Urban, Ohio State University
Dark Webs: Tantra and Black Magic in Cyberspace

This paper examines the growing number of Indian-based websites that offer services in black magic (kālo jādu) and spells for subjugation or control of others (vaśīkaraṇ). Specifically, I focus on websites based in Assam, which has long been infamous as the heartland of Tantra, with a widespread reputation for magic and sorcery. Using both analyses of numerous websites and interviews with their creators, I argue that Tantra has undergone a series of profound transformations in the twenty-first century, facilitated by the global circulations of the internet. On one hand, these online services freely blend Tantra with other forms of magic – most commonly with a popularized version of Voodoo. On the other hand, they also assume an “Americanized” version of Tantra, defined primarily in terms of “sex,” and the majority of services they offer involve spells for wooing lovers, enhancing libido, and subduing straying partners.

Sravana Borkataky-Varma, University of North Carolina-Wilmington
WhatsApp Bagalā!

The aim of this paper is to explore how Śakta Tantra devotees are negotiating and redefining the religious space in a specific digital context—WhatsApp, and to situate the new practices within the larger umbrella of digital religions. The heart of the ethnographic research is based on the ritual practices and prayer requests made specifically to a tutelary deity Bagalāmukhī in Kāmākhyā Temple in Assam, India. The paper argues that the digital media in general and WhatsApp in particular, have allowed devotees in India and the diaspora with easy access, which enables them to enmesh their experiences. The goddess too takes a fluid form and the boundaries between sacred and profane as well and the esoteric and the exoteric are blurred. Since, Bagalāmukhī is one of the mahāvidyās, this paper also aims at defining the impact of WhatsApp on the modern-day understandings of Śakta Tantra.

Seth Ligo, Duke University
Mapping Mandalas: Tantric Constructs in a Puranic City

Varanasi is a fundamentally Puranic city, its fame both constructed and perpetuated through Puranic texts. It’s a setting of Puranic stories, and home to Puranic deities. The religious practice of visitors coheres with a Puranic devotional and pilgrimage paradigms, and Puranas serve as authoritative lists of the city’s sacred sites. And yet the metaphysical regulation of Varanasi’s borders is managed in a distinctly Tantric fashion, relying on an externalized logic of mandalas - idealized and internalized geographies visualized in Tantric ritual traditions. While pilgrims do not perform Tantric visualization of mandalas, Tantric logic informs how pilgrims gain access to and move throughout Varanasi’s sacred territory. The digital mapping of sites and circuits in mandalic networks enables the investigation of mandala as not only internalization, but transposition and construction, of territory. Further, such maps and Tantric logic can shed light onto the question of protective deities in the city.

Renee Ford, Rice University
Scandals Heard around the World: How the Internet Changes Vajrayana Buddhism

In this paper, I address two separate allegations of sexual abuse in two different Western Tibetan Buddhist communities, Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa, and Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and Shambhala, to bring forward how Western mis-interpretations of student-teacher relationships in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism is problematic for these and other Western Buddhist communities. In particular, I demonstrate that these communities are influenced by these mis-understandings of Vajrayana student-teacher relationships through online access via Facebook forums, the community’s respective websites, and newspaper and magazine articles. Yet, the accessibility of the internet offers new perspectives into these “new” Vajrayana communities. I argue that exposing these esoteric communities in a public setting is important for re-interpretation of Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism in the West.

Finnian Moore Gerety, Brown University
Warning: Ancient Tantric Frequencies: Videos of Tantric Mantras and Seed Syllables on YouTube

This paper examines the circulation and consumption of Tantric mantras on the online video platform YouTube. In particular, I will focus on videos featuring bīja or “seed syllables”— single sounds such as oṃ, aiṃ, hūṃ, kroom and so forth. Drawing on Birgit Meyer’s idea of religion as a practice of mediation articulated through “aesthetic formation,” my aim is to explore how the affordances of digital video as a medium and online platform support the dissemination of Tantric mantras. I will also attend to continuities with premodern Tantric media—sound, voice, the body, script, diagrams, drawings—and ideological framings—secrecy, power, authority, tradition. I conclude that these mediatized seed syllables contribute to transformational experiences for the consumer-practitioners, which are affirmed through quantitative metrics like “views” and “likes,” through qualitative testimonials in the comments sections, and through transacting in accompanying wares like DVDs, books, and retreats.

Dheepa Sundaram, University of Denver
YouTube Yogis, Neo-Tantric Healing Practices, and a Twofold Sanitization of Yoga

Modern Postural Yoga (MPY) highlights the complicated relationships in the globalized market between ethno-nationalist politics, “ownership” of cultural practices, and religious identity. MPY is rooted in Haṭha traditions which incorporate tantric ritual and power into a transactional model of yogic practice. This essay explores how YouTube Yogis market holistic lifestyle healing reliant on tantra’s transactional nature. As cultural entrepreneurs, YouTube yogis hawk a comprehensive health program that features yoga as part of a lifestyle “cure”. Doing so, they unwittingly buttress the Hindu Right’s “brahmin-washing” of MPY’s pluralist history. Seeing these yogis as cultural appropriators, the Hindu American Foundation’s 2010 “Take back Yoga” campaign argued yoga was hijacked from Hinduism. PM Narendra Modi suggested recently that yoga is losing “Hinduness” while lamenting the “stolen” revenue as a continuation of colonial-era exploitation. Perceived cultural and material loss provides ground for the Hindu Right’s aggressive campaign to rehistoricize and sanitize modern yoga.

Xenia Zeiler, University of Helsinki
Business Meeting:
Gudrun Bühnemann, University of Wisconsin
Glen Hayes, Bloomfield College
Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Unit
Theme: New Research in Tibetan and Himalayan Religions
Benjamin Bogin, Skidmore College, Presiding
Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 310A (Third Level)


Yi Ding, Stanford University
Visualizing the Feast and the Feast for Visualization: The Gaṇacakra as a Communal Liturgy in Early Tibetan Buddhism

During and shortly after the Fragmentation Period, a liturgical practice termed “Tantric feast” (Skt. gaṇacakra; Tib. tshogs kyi 'khor lo) was introduced to Tibetan Buddhism. It is a communal gathering of initiated congregants attended by invisible beings. The key features of the Tantric feast, which include antinomian ritual enactments, the participation of wrathful deities and other kinds of spirits, and the communal consumption of the sacrament, are premised on the possibility of a group visualization performed by the congregants. First, by utilizing four different kinds of sources, this paper reconstructs the ritual logic in the early gaṇacakra texts with regard to the use of visual practice. Second, the paper explains how a collective sense of the invisible can be strategically constructed. Third, the paper reappraises the possible meanings of “visualization” in a Buddhist context and the ramifications of a redefinition of this term.

James Gentry, University of Virginia
The Indian “Five Protections” in Tibet: Influences of a Pragmatic Ritual Collection in Tibetan Treasure Traditions

This paper considers the reception in Tibet of the Indian scriptural collection known as the “Five Protections,” (Skt. Pañcarakṣā) through analysis of its influence on the Tibetan Treasure tradition (gter ma) of ongoing scriptural revelation. This paper will compare language and themes of select Tibetan Treasure revelations with those of the Pañcarakṣā and its associated texts to explore how the Pañcarakṣā collection may have served as inspiration and perhaps even source material for the Tibetan Treasure tradition. The paper also considers how apologetic defenses of the Treasure tradition from the 16th century on explicitly reference the Pañcarakṣā in support of the orthodoxy of this indigenous tradition of Tibetan revelation. This research figures in a larger book project to trace the dynamics by which Tibetans have variously received Indian Buddhist scriptures according to changing circumstances.

Eric Haynie, University of Michigan
Should You Stay or Should You Go: Place, Pilgrimage, and the Past-Future of Buddhist Tradition in Seventeenth Century Tibet

Based on an epistolary exchange between two important eastern Tibetan figures in the seventeenth century—Karma Chakmé (1608-1678) and Pema Rigzin (1625-1697)—this paper argues for a revamped approach to the relationship between tradition, place, and time in Tibetan Buddhist history. The seventeenth century was a period of major shifts and upheaval in Tibet, and a letter penned by Karma Chakmé provides a brief but revealing glimpse at the conjunctures involving the Kagyu and Nyingma orders, and the central Tibetan government. In a moment of inversion and invention, Karma Chakmé revaluates Buddhism’s Indian past by highlighting the inevitability of Buddhism’s future flourishing in eastern Tibet, aided by Pema Rigzin. Ultimately, this paper will suggest this often-overlooked figure was a major driver of the eastward move of the Nyingma in the seventeenth century. Moreover, it argues for a more nuanced consideration of the temporalities implicit in the making of Buddhist traditions.

Christopher Hiebert, University of Virginia
“Naturally Complete?”: Shenpen Tayé (1800–1855) and the Place of the Great Perfection in the Rise of Modern Nyingma Monastic Education.

My paper investigates the emergence of a comprehensive system of monastic education in the Tibetan Buddhist Nyingma sect in the middle decades of the 19th century, focusing on the pivotal figure of Gyelsé Shenpen Tayé (rgyal sras gzhan phan myha’ yas; 1800–1855), who founded the first shedra (bshad grwa; “exegetical seminary”), at Dzokchen Monastery. I look specifically at the influence and impact of Great Perfection (Dzokchen; rdzogs chen) teachings and practices on this new educational system, and investigate the influence of Jikmé Lingpa’s (‘jigs med gling pa; 1730–1798) influential re-formulation of Dzokchen thought and praxis on Shenpen Tayé and his educational reforms. I focus specifically on Shenpen Tayé’s efforts to disseminate and propagate Jikmé Lingpa’s Long_chen Nyingtik “treasure” (terma; gter ma) cycle, and Tayé’s deployment of Jikmé Lingpa’s Treasury of Precious Qualities as a core curricular text.

Business Meeting:
Nicole Willock, Old Dominion University
Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society Unit and Buddhism in the West Unit and Buddhist Critical-Constructive Reflection Unit
Theme: Buddhism and American Belonging Roundtable
Joseph Cheah, University of Saint Joseph, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-24C (Upper Level East)

In this roundtable, leading scholars of gender, race, and Buddhism will explore the theme of Buddhism and American Belonging with the explicit purpose of naming and thinking beyond Buddhism and Whiteness. Panelists will address the following questions—1) Whose Buddhism counts as “real” tradition in the academy; 2) Whose America do we envision in the study of Buddhism and America?; and 3) What steps are needed to disrupt studies of Buddhism that are continually beleaguered by the heavy inheritance of whiteness? Drawing from Adrienne Maree Brown’s emergent strategy in order to disrupt and dismantle white supremacy within the academy and beyond, this panel takes a collaborative, co-creative, and collective model of skillful response to racial injustices and whiteness. In so doing, the Buddhism and American Belonging: Gender, Race, and Intersectionality roundtable responds to Brown’s provocative question— How do we turn our collective full-bodied intelligence toward collaboration?

Mark Unno, University of Oregon
Sharon A. Suh, Seattle University
Hsiao-Lan Hu, University of Detroit Mercy
Tammy Ho, University of California, Riverside
Patricia Ikeda, East Bay Meditation Center
Hinduism Unit and Indian and Chinese Religions Compared and Yogācāra Studies Unit
Theme: Yogācāra and Vedānta in Modern Chinese and Indian Thought
Eyal Aviv, George Washington University, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-2 (Upper Level West)

When the global colonial modernity brought new challenges to traditional cultures around world, India and China each rose to this challenge. Their respective engagements with European modernity were dissimilar in many respects. Nonetheless, there is one surprising homology. In each case, a significant part of the response was to argue that their own culture was already modern. In each case, the evidence for that modernity, and so the intellectual movement that was deployed as modern, was a form of idealism: Yogācāra in China and Vedānta in India. In the context of the ascendancy of European materialism, the modern rise of idealism is prima facie surprising.
However, this deployment was not as adversarial as it sounds. As demonstrated by each panelist, the originally idealist arguments were repurposed to support a new understanding of materialism, and to demonstrate a distinctively Asian way to understand and to pursue science and material development.

Jingjing Li, Leiden University
From the Yogācāra Concept of Consciousness to the Modern Confucian Doctrine of Volition

The Yogācāra revival in early republican China set the stage for modern reforms of Buddhism and Confucianism. This presentation examines the early thinking of Liang Shuming (1893-1988), one of the founders of modern Confucianism. Subordinating his academic research to the goal of enabling China to confront and compete with Western science, Liang turned to Yogācāra. Harmonizing the Yogācāra notion of ālaya with the Neo-Confucian mind-nature, the Bergsonian élan-vital, and the Schopenhauerian Wille, Liang produced his doctrine of “yiyu (volition)” to define the type of mind that shapes people’s way of living in one culture. Further appropriating the Yogācāra theory of pramāṇa, Liang demarcated the Confucian type of mind from that of Buddhism and Science. Consequently, he predicted how the global culture would first embrace the Western scientific type of mind until it encounters insurmountable obstacles, and would then turn to the Confucian type of mind and the Buddhist one.

Jessica Zu, Princeton University
The Global Flow of Darwinism and A New Yogācāra in Modern China

The China Inner Learning Institute (1922-1952) was the leading center of the Yogācāra revival in modern China. However, in the wake of the May Fourth Movement (1919), science and realism had become the prevailing wind. Why did consciousness-only doctrines become newly relevant at this historical juncture?
To understand the appeal of Yogācāra, I investigate a 1929 edition of Xuanzang's Cheng weishi lun that was collated with Sanskrit and Tibetan texts such as Vasubandhu’s Triṃśikāvijñaptikārikā, Sthiramati’s Triṃśikāvijñaptibhāṣya, and Vinītadeva’s Triṃśikāṭīkā.
I demonstrate that the editor Lü Cheng accentuated certain doctrines in Xuanzang's treatise such as prasiddha, indirect objective support, and praṣṭhalabdha. These hermeneutic strategies allowed him to theorize a Yogācāra social evolution in terms of phenomenological naturalism. Yogācāra proved a powerful tool to refute social Darwinism and Bergsonism. Lü’s scholarship furnished a social turn of Yogācāra soteriology that paved the way for the Institute’s project of revolutionizing the consciousness (āśraya-parivṛtti).

Unregistered Participant
Sri Aurobindo and Neo-Vedānta

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) was a philosopher, poet, translator, yogi and guru, as well as a former political activist. I examine neo-Vedānta trajectories in his thought, through his essay “The Secret of the Veda” (1914) and his poem Savitri (1950-51). In “The Secret of the Veda,” Aurobindo aims to establish a sense of unity, or non-difference, or “sub-root affiliation” between two languages, Sanskrit and Tamil, belonging to different language-families. His larger goal is to achieve correlating affinity between the Arian and Dravidian races, that India is supposed to be made of. Language, politics and metaphysics are interweaved here as to create an Advaitic, non-dual picture. Classical Idealism, such as Śaṅkara’s, is metamorphosed as to suit modernist needs and political concerns. In Savriti, a rereading-as-rewriting of a classical episode from the Mahābhārata, Aurobindo blends together ingredients from classical Indian and European idealisms, as to create an all-embracing philosophico-psychologico-religio-occult picture, which conveys his modernist interpretation of Advaita-Vedānta.

Nalini Bhushan, Smith College
Modern Philosophy of Science from a Vedanta Perspective: A Case Study

How did Indian philosophers approach Vedanta idealism as a framework for addressing 19th and 20th century concerns in the philosophy of science? To answer this question, I will focus on the writings of professor SS Suryanarayana Sastri (1893-1942) who taught at Madras University during British rule. My goal is to use this case study in support of a much broader point regarding the aspirations and methodological choices of philosophers who wrote during this period, which drove them to demonstrate the continued viability and vitality of the Vedanta framework in making sense of contemporary developments in the sciences.

Japanese Religions Unit
Theme: Living Right: “Life” (Inochi) in Millennial Japan
Tim Graf, Nanzan University, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 411B (Fourth Level)

This roundtable session takes the form of a workshop designed to draw attendees into active discussion with the session organizers and each other. We aim to examine an emergent discourse that positions life (inochi) and living (ikiru) as central but also overdetermined values in millennial Japan. One of the signal attractions of “life” as a ground for ethically motivated action is its ecumenical appeal. Whether one describes one’s principles as religious, ethical, scientific, moral, or in some other terms, anyone, it seems, can endorse and embrace life. In this workshop, we focus on several zones of social anxiety: productivity and burnout; chronic illness and social justice; and children’s literature and education.

Jessica Starling, Lewis and Clark College
Melissa Anne-Marie Curley, Ohio State University
Heather Blair, Indiana University
Tillich: Issues in Theology, Religion, and Culture Unit
Theme: Tillich and Other Religions
Unregistered Participant, Presiding
Saturday - 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Convention Center-23C (Upper Level East)

Unlike many Christian theologians of his time, Paul Tillich sought to engage other religious traditions, exploring key commonalities with respect to ‘ultimate concern’ and culture. While he interacted with Judaism most, Tillich tried to engage Japanese Buddhism late in his life, and his method of correlation sets up both possibilities and limitations for comparative engagements with other religions from his own Protestant context. This panel will engage Judaism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Ruism, exploring both the potential and limits of using Tillich as a conversation partner for constructive interreligious encounters. In this papers session, three scholars, Elliot Ratzman, Kirk McGregor, and Bin Song will provide insights on how Tillich's work can be used to engage Judaism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Ruism.

Elliot Ratzman, Lawrence University
Tillich before & after Auschwitz: Jews and Ultimate Concern

Tillich's critique of antisemitism was stronger than his positive views of Jews and Judaism, which were modified after the Holocaust and the rise of the State of Israel. In this brief presentation, I will note Tillich's published, and some neglected, claims about Judaism surrounding his visits to the State of Israel.

Kirk MacGregor, McPherson College
The New Being in Pure Land Buddhism

According to Pure Land Buddhism, the bodhisattva Dharmākara made forty-eight vows and then fulfilled these vows, thereby becoming Amida Buddha and creating a Pure Land paradise free of suffering and decay. In so doing, I argue that Dharmākara manifested essential being under the conditions of existence without being conquered by them. Bearing the new being, Amida Buddha therefore stands as the Buddhist functional equivalent of Jesus Christ. Moreover, anyone who, in Tillich's language of justification, "accepts that they are accepted" by placing faith in Amida while reciting the nembutsu secures rebirth in the Pure Land. Hence Amida enables his followers to experience and participate in New Being, entering the Spiritual Community.

Bin Song, Washington College
The Utopian Seed of Modern Chinese Politics in Ruism (Confucianism) and Its Paul Tillich Remed

The paper will utilize Tillich’s pneumatology on “spiritual presence” in his third volume of Systematic Theology to comparatively reconsider the utopian seed of modern Chinese politics in Ru (Confucian) spirituality.

Robison B. James, University of Richmond
  • Books under Discussion
Animals and Religion Unit and Buddhism Unit
Theme: At the Intersection of Buddhist and Animal Studies: Reiko Ohnuma’s Unfortunate Destiny: Animals in the Indian Buddhist Imagination
Barbara Ambros, University of North Carolina, Presiding
Saturday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-26B (Upper Level East)

Reiko Ohnuma’s Unfortunate Destiny: Animals in the Indian Buddhist Imagination (2017) has been a milestone in the study of animals in Buddhism. The recent monograph has already had a profound impact on the field of Buddhist Studies and has spurred new scholarship on animals and Buddhism. This panel explores how Ohnuma’s book has reshaped the field of Buddhist studies and what her work brings to the field of animals and religion more broadly. Four panelists, who study animals and religion from a variety of different perspectives ranging from Buddhist studies to Christian ecological ethics and modern Jewish thought, will present their responses to Unfortunate Destiny, followed by a rejoinder from Ohnuma. Then we will invite the audience to join our discussion. We look forward to the conversation at the intersection of Buddhist studies and animals & religion.

Geoffrey Barstow, Oregon State University
Eric Meyer, Carroll College
Janet Gyatso, Harvard University
Aaron Gross, University of San Diego
Reiko Ohnuma, Dartmouth College
Arts, Literature, and Religion Unit
Theme: Ritualistic/Artistic Destruction in the Asia-Pacific
Gloria Maité Hernández, West Chester University, Presiding
Saturday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua E (Third Level)

This panel examines the religious phenomenon of "unmaking" in the Asia-Pacific region. That is, it explores the process of ritual destruction of images and texts in Tibetan Buddhism, the "endurance, collapse, and transformation" of contemporary Buddhist performance art, and the relationship between Butoh and "the trauma of cultural unmaking." Taken together, these three papers offer novel approaches for understanding the transformative destructive-creative process.

Patricia Giles, Syracuse University
Encountering the Collapse of Zhang Huan’s Sydney Buddha

This paper analyzes the affective and sensory mechanisms of a performance of collapse enacted by a giant sculpture made of incense ash, Sydney Buddha (2015), created by contemporary Chinese artist Zhang Huan (1965- ), a convert to Tibetan Buddhism. This analysis provides resources for investigating three related issues. First, it describes how the affective and sensory mechanisms of this artistic performance activated complex responses in its audience. Second, insight into Zhang’s post-conversion abandonment of bodily performances of endurance is illuminated by the affective and sensory ways Sydney Buddha advances Zhang’s investigations into several religious themes that persisted throughout his pre-conversion work. Finally, analysis of the roles of affect and sense in the performance of Sydney Buddha, and across Zhang Huan’s career, provides a path toward engaging with the relationship between art and religion in terms of the shared affective and sensory activities by which endurance, collapse, and transformation become human possibilities.

Lisa Beyeler-Yvarra, Duke University
“Going through the Shadow into Light”: Butoh as the Embodiment of Cultural Unraveling

The story of Butoh (originally Ankoku Butoh or the “Dance of Utter Darkness”), a revolutionary art form created by co-founders Hijikata Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo in the late 1950s, may be conceived as a performative expression of intercultural trauma. That is, it is an art birthed out of the trauma of cultural westernization and the dismantling of Japanese culture as well as an attempt to rebel against it. This paper draws on Butoh scholarship, critical theory of trauma and Japanese westernization, and ethnographic research on contemporary American Butoh performers, to explore the relationship between Butoh and the trauma of cultural unmaking. Threaded throughout this essay is the argument that Butoh is an embodied revelation of the paradox of trauma: it is the outgrowth of trauma and the corporeal performance of dismantling–and, at times, even the site of trauma–as well as a wellspring for healing.

Business Meeting:
Pamela D. Winfield, Elon University
Zhange Ni, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Chinese Religions Unit
Theme: Disaster and Calamity in Chinese Religions from the Medieval to the Modern Era
Jessey Choo, Rutgers University, Presiding
Saturday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-23C (Upper Level East)

Most religious systems have found need to address how breakdowns in cosmic and human order bring disaster and calamity, thus generating meaning out of suffering and violence. In the Chinese religious context, disasters are symptomatic of change in the moral-physical cosmos, a singular continuum encompassing both human and celestial affairs. Calamities become transformative occasions, remaking an evil world into something new. The justifiable punishment of the wicked, the blessed survival of the faithful, and the promise of a better future are all central to discourses on disaster. This panel presents four perspectives on such discourses: three presentations each focus on an historical era from medieval to modern China, followed by a respondent who, in reflecting on the papers, also will provide theoretical context. Arguing that cataclysmic discourses were foundational to Chinese religious systems, the panelists explore innovative religious perspectives developed by the faithful in response to real historical disasters.

April Hughes, Boston University
Disaster and Calamity in Medieval China

This presentation considers how the destruction of the world and the death of most of its inhabitants is required in apocalyptic scriptures in order for both the earth and humankind to be restored. The wicked people will all be eliminated; leaving only the wholesome few to re-populate the world. The savior will descend in order to provide safe passage for the worthy to his terrestrial utopia. The world itself will be remade so that it is flat, the climate is mild, poisonous animals are removed, and harvests are abundant. This beautiful new utopia is only achievable through the demise of the old, corrupt world. However, in texts written to associate the emperor with the earthly savior, the destruction is absent. The emperor arrives during a time of peace to save people form their lack of faith.

Katherine Alexander, University of Colorado
Disaster and Calamity in Early Modern China

This paper takes the Taiping War (1851-1864) as a case study into how competing religious interpretations of disastrous times encouraged radical approaches to their resolution within the traditional framework of cyclical cosmic cataclysm. I consider the Taiping solution to the ongoing crises of nineteenth century China – toppling the Qing and founding a new theocracy – in conjunction with religious approaches of Qing loyalists aiming to shore up the Qing against collapse. Each considered the other as symptomatic of fundamental imbalances in the cosmos that could only be righted through religiously inflected mass campaigns of violence and education. By exploring the religious rationalizations and justifications behind their calls for action, this paper will reconsider how disasters reshaped the social and religious landscape of nineteenth century China in ways that remain tangible to this day.

Gregory Adam Scott, University of Manchester
Disaster and Calamity in Modern China

This presentation will address how religious groups in modern China, between the founding of the Republic in 1912 and the end of the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s, anticipated, responded to, and conceptualized calamity and disaster. During this era, religious institutions resisted the disasters inflicted upon them, rebuilt themselves in their wake, and perhaps most crucially, turned to people who were suffering from disasters and calamities to try and lend them aid. My thesis is that while religion in modern China was clearly shaped by its experience of destruction and calamity, religious groups were also proactive in making efforts to intervene and help ameliorate their effects on society. This active intervention in the successive disasters of modern Chinese history has had a reflexive effect on religious culture, and has had an impact on the subsequent development of Chinese religion in both mainland China and in Chinese communities worldwide.

James A. Benn, McMaster University
Business Meeting:
Megan Bryson, University of Tennessee
Anna Sun, Kenyon College
Religion and Disability Studies Unit
Theme: Candidates with Disability for Ritual Leadership, Shared Space & Liberation, Shame & Relationality, Mental Illness & Sanctity
Mary Jo Iozzio, Boston College, Presiding
Saturday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-21 (Upper Level East)

This session explores the subject of access to space, broadly considered, by persons with physical, sensory, and invisible disabilities, and persons with mental illness -from ableist assumptions of whose bodies count to shared space, holiness and depression, and shame exposed.

Rebecca Spurrier, Columbia Theological Seminary
Fit Bodies, Abled Minds, and Inaccessible Routes to Religious Leadership

In many Christian contexts the body of the religious leader or clergy person functions as a religious symbol. While expectations for these symbolic bodies often rest on unstated and implicit assumptions about religious rituals and good embodiment, the paths to religious leadership also entail explicit forms of ableism. This paper presents findings from qualitative research, identifying some of the most significant barriers that some disabled people encounter to their pursuit of religious leadership; articulating effects those barriers and obstacles have on candidates; and mining theological convictions that help to create and sustain ableist ideals for religious leadership within particular contexts. The goals of the project and of this presentation are to draw attention to the kinds of symbolic transformation that are needed in order for some faith communities to desire and make space for new ideals and practices of religious leadership.

Lily Kim, McMaster University
Disablism & Shared Space

Shared space is a place of mutual respect and belonging. Taken from qualitative research conducted in Canada and in Israel among faith groups and survivors of the Holocaust, this paper in Practical Theology aims to enlighten the discussion on liberating disabled identities. It will illumine the significance of deep listening, hospitality, and empowerment. Within the frame of intercultural theology, the concept of shared space in postmodernity recognizes the value of reciprocity—beyond that of simply ‘freedom’. Raising multiple consciousness could inspire greater mutuality, create solidarity, and form relationship-based practice. The phenomenon of empathy enables the trust to form that can forge the bonds needed to overcome parallel ideologies of difference: disablism and racism. Implications for the sustainability of intercultural engagement will conclude this paper, in reframing a context-specific model of disability, envisioned as “Shared Space.”

Jessica Coblentz, Saint Mary's College of California
Sanctity, Sanity, and the Christian Life

The posthumous publication of Mother Teresa’s diaries made public the saint’s struggle with intense sadness, despair, and the absence of God. In the Catholic world, these revelations sparked debates about her mental health: Was Mother Teresa depressed? How could a holy woman such as herself experience a condition like this? These speculations exemplify the assumption of many Christians that depression is antithetical to Christian sanctity: surely, they suggest, the work of grace surmounts such conditions. This paper, first, illuminates the beliefs about sanity and sanctity that underpin these public discussions; second, demonstrates how they mirror and perpetuate mental health stigma; and third, argues for the compatibility of depression and Christian holiness through a constructive consideration of the saints, who serve as our models of sanctity.

Alison Downie, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
The Shame That Binds: Theology and Mental Illness

A tangled knot in Christian theology binds cords of guilt, sin, mental illness, and shame within an inadequate, individualistic model of agency. These problematic entanglements demonstrate implicit ableism and shame those disabled by serious mental illness. Untying this complex knot requires, firstly, a clear distinction between the dynamics of guilt and shame, provided by affect theory. Secondly, analysis of ways in which theology has too often conflated sin with symptoms of mental illness, thus shaming those who live with mental illness, is also needed. Finally, a relational model of agency, built upon insights from disability theorists and feminist theology, is needed because it enables discussions about these themes to proceed without shaming. Since shame is a weapon used to silence those to whom it is directed, speaking about its presence and effects within Christian tradition and contemporary contexts is an important theological responsibility.

Religion and Economy Unit
Theme: Religious Affects of Capital
George Gonzalez, City University of New York, Presiding
Saturday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire L (Fourth Level)

This panel will explore the passionate and affective terrains carved by the encounters between capital and a variety of religious traditions. Panelists demonstrate how religious responses to capital are not only theological or pragmatic but also motored by affects, emotions, and passions. Through five brief presentations, the papers draw connections between a variety of traditions, spaces, and times. Presentations examine topics including angel narratives in neoliberal America, Buddhist renderings of desire in the world’s new centers of capital in East Asia, Islamic framings of economic justice, the experience of marketplace thinking among nineteenth-century British Protestants, and the enchantment of Muslim entrepreneurship beyond calculative reason. This panel will address questions central to the merging of religion and economy: the religious affects that underscore and reproduce the centrality of capital in the modern era.

Isaac Arten, Saint Louis University
“A Matter of Profit and Loss Belonging to Another World”: Reality as Marketplace in Nineteenth-Century British Protestant Theological Anthropology

Nineteenth-century British Protestant theological anthropology was informed by a vision of reality as marketplace. Theological engagement with economic concepts, especially “market” and “profit,” structured Christian thinking about human nature and fulfillment. A moral responsibility to seek what was profitable, literally and metaphorically, grounded a Christian vision of humanity during the Industrial Revolution. The interplay between economics and religion is prominent in British evangelism. In this paper, I examine the writings of David Jones and William Cockran, evangelists serving the Church Missionary Society’s North-West America mission Rupert's Land (modern Manitoba). Analysis of their journals and letters reveals the effects of reality as marketplace thinking and market activity as a default mode of encounter on British Protestant theological anthropology. In this setting, the economic and spiritual marketplace of reality became part of what Tisa Wenger calls a “civilizational assemblage” that disciplined human bodies (those of indigenous peoples) into full personhood as Christians.

Unregistered Participant
Angel Economies: Neoliberal Religion and the User-Generated Ordinary

This paper explores the ordinary affects “God’s blessed” learned to cultivate. Utilizing popular angel encounter narratives in contemporary America as a case study, it asks how one came to feel blessed in neoliberalism. Angel narratives were user-generated and mass-marketed narratives of encountering God in fragile, fleeting, mundane moments: family dinners, walking the dog, long car rides. The angelic was almost never winged biblical figures, but affects that surged around such practices. When trouble came, threatening to dislodge the blessed from their status, angels always brought peace. Following the circulation of these stories illuminates how such authors reproduced their subjectivity as a tangible market product that cemented white suburbia as the home of God’s faithful. This paper analyzes how specific subjects came to feel themselves as simultaneously blessed and deeply “ordinary,” and how the aesthetics, bodily comportments, and affective economies of ordinary life within neoliberalism became proof of God’s blessings.

Rebecca Faulkner, Princeton University
Economic Thought of Muhammad Iqbal

Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) was an Indian poet-philosopher whose work in Urdu, Persian, and English argues for dynamic, vital remaking of the self and the community and correspondingly enacting political, economic, and religious reform. I am interested in how issues of economic justice, especially in the colonial period as expressed by Iqbal, fit into specifically Muslim framing. I discuss a phrase it seems Iqbal coined in a poem called “Lenin before God” (in Bal-e-Jibril/Gabriel’s Wing, 1935), which can be translated capital-worship. Iqbal’s use of this phrase unites economic and religious thinking and acts as an invitation for further questioning on the relationship between the two in pursuit of just economic conditions.

Esra Tunc, University of California, Santa Barbara
Translation of Giving into Islamic Entrepreneurship in Corporate America

In the context of American Muslim giving, I ask how giving as a form of resistance and as the moment of translation is embodied in entrepreneurship. With a focus on two Islamic corporations in the United States, which appeal to Muslims worldwide through their use of financial technology, I argue that the meeting of Muslim giving with entrepreneurship at once represents and exceeds calculative reason. While the logic of calculation is crucial in this meeting, I particularly underline the role of intention and forms of sociality as beyond calculation. Hence, this paper sheds light on how giving becomes a site of the entrepreneurship and how financial technology becomes a platform for the production of religious discourses. This research involves discourse analysis of interviews with the participants of two Islamic corporations based in the United States in addition to media products by these companies.

Matthew King, University of California, Riverside
Śrī Śrī Homo Economicus: Claiming Desire in the Tantric Frontiers of Capital

Leveraging the deep history of Buddhism’s expansive exploration of desire and human becoming, Shérab Tendar adopts Mahāyāna and tantric approaches to capital, capitalist anxiety, political oppression, suppressed histories, and Eurocentric universalisms about the human and transmutates them into a purified vision of self and community. Adding whole other meanings to value in motion, Shérab Tendar prescribes countless tantric techniques for using wealth to find enlightenment by first purifying desire. Economics and the West is supplanted by nāgā rituals and bodhisattva conduct. Homo Economicus is dissolved into emptiness and generated as a tantric buddha. Engaging abstracted desire along the frontiers of global capital, Shérab Tendar thus asserts otherwise frames of self-mastery, other histories, other moral narratives, and whole worlds of religious possibilities by subjecting abstracted desire to the alchemical techniques of tantra (ex. King 2016). Here is a micro-case of the counter-rationalization of desire that reverses the sorts of epochal transitions to modernity in Asia that supposedly come from contact with the West. The global rationalization of desire that has supposedly come from such contact is central to the myth of modernization itself, to iterations of progress and development, and to the grand story of the rise of the West: an historical process Prasenjit Duara provocatively identifies as the primary, but now outdated, object of the humanities and social sciences (Duara 2016).

Devin Singh, Dartmouth College
Business Meeting:
Daniel Vaca, Brown University
Western Esotericism Unit
Theme: Esoteric Exchanges: Indigenous and Latin Cultures in the Americas
Manon Hedenborg White, Södertörn University, Presiding
Saturday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Aqua A (Third Level)

This session explores exchanges between Esotericism and the Latin American and American indigenous cultures. In general the esoteric dimensions of Latin and indigenous cultures in their relation with colonizing powers is underexplored and understudied; yet it relates strongly to the way non-Western cultural practices (from Tibetan Buddhism to Ayahuasca ceremonies) are borrowed and reconfigured in the synthetic project of constructing new esoteric ideas and traditions. Latin America in general finds itself in the shadow of the notion of "Western" esotericism as a predominantly European-(North-)American and white phenomenon. This panel discusses aspects of Latin American and indigenous esotericisms broadly conceived.

Rudy V. Busto, University of California, Santa Barbara
Mexico’s Esoteric Virgin: Miguel Sánchez’s Imagen de la Virgen María, Madre de Dios de Guadalupe

The Virgin of Guadalupe’s origin in sixteenth century Mexico is an essential narrative in the religious history of the Americas. While Mexico’s mariophany follows the general pattern of European Roman Catholic virgin apparitions, an alternate reading of Miguel Sanchez’s 1648 Imagen de la Virgen María, Madre de Dios de Guadalupeexamines how under the encrustations of biblical allusion and fawning Catholic devotion esoteric ideas and tropes are embedded. A close reading of Sanchez’ text reveals his familiarity with Ficino, Kabbalistic numerology and various strands of western esotericism. Placed within the context of ongoing scholarly debates about the Guadalupe narratives and their accuracy, the paper offers an alternative to the opposing Catholic orthodox vs. indigenous readings of the narrative. The goal of this paper is to affirm colonial Mexico’s idiosyncratic place in the archaeological salvaging of esotericism in otherwise established and conventionally interpreted materials; in this case the central narrative of Mexican identity itself.

Lisa Poirier, DePaul University
Secrecy, Identity, and the Ghost Dance of 1890

An exploration of the operations of secrecy in the Ghost Dance of 1890, with attention to the transparency and opacity of the Messiah Letters. Attention is given to the construction and consolidation of supratribal identities, the demarcation of social and religious boundaries, and the epistemological power of Native self-definition.

Stefan Sanchez, Rice University
Losing the Soul: Gloria Anzaldúa’s Susto and Her Metaphysics of Pain

Susto, the condition of the soul being frightened out of the body, is typically understood as a diagnosis of supernatural attack. Chicana activist, philosopher, and practitioner of chamanismo Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s writing formulates susto as an inevitable injury to the self, and in doing so, collapses the realms of the supernatural, the social, and the ecological in on each other. Far from a simple description of a folk illness, Anzaldúa’s conception of susto unfolds into a metaphysics of interaction and pain. Under this metaphysics, the individual’s identity is fuzzy, constantly trading components with nature, and subject to constant injury. This paper will explore the unique qualities of this particular conception of susto as it relates to Anzaldúa’s shamanic and esoteric influences and practices.

Yogācāra Studies Unit
Theme: Text Discussion Panel: The Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra
C. John Powers, Deakin University, Presiding
Saturday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire P (Fourth Level)

The Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra is an influential Indian Mahāyāna text generally associated with the Yogācāra school of Buddhist philosophy. It has been studied and analyzed in India, Tibet, and China and was one of the core texts used for the Treatise on the Doctrine of Cognition-Only (Cheng weishi lun 成唯識論). This panel will follow the model established in the Yogācāra Studies Unit text discussion panels: participants will give brief presentations on philosophically interesting topics in the text and its commentaries designed to spark discussion with attendees, focusing in particular on the text's discussions of Buddhist doctrine, the nature of reality, and buddhahood.

Unregistered Participant
Jay Garfield, Smith College
Sonam Thakchoe, University of Tasmania
Dan Arnold, University of Chicago
Eyal Aviv, George Washington University
Jonathan Gold, Princeton University
Business Meeting:
Joy Brennan, Kenyon College
Roy Tzohar, Tel-Aviv University