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Buddhism Unit

Call for Proposals

The Buddhism Unit welcomes proposals for Papers Sessions, Roundtables, and Individual Papers in all areas of the study of Buddhism. To encourage greater exchange among the various subfields within Buddhist Studies, we are particularly interested in sessions that confront enduring problems in the study of Buddhism, raise important theoretical or methodological issues, and/or bring fresh materials or perspectives to bear on themes of broad interest, especially those that address multiple regions and/or time periods. All proposals should demonstrate their coherence and significance in language accessible to the Steering Committee, which includes individuals working on diverse aspects of Buddhism. We are also committed to diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, rank, institutions, etc. WISAR ( is an excellent resource for ensuring gender balance.

For Individual Papers this year, although everyone is welcome to submit a proposal, we are prioritizing contributions by graduate students and/or postdocs. Four Individual Papers will be chosen for an omnibus session entitled “New Work in Buddhist Studies.” Please do not submit a paper as both an Individual Paper Proposal and as part of a Papers Session Proposal.

All AAR sessions are now 90 minutes or 2 hours in length. If you wish, you may indicate which time-length you have in mind for a session, but we cannot guarantee it.

We especially welcome proposals on this year’s Presidential Theme, “Religion and Catastrophe,” or proposals that relate in some way to the location of the Annual Meeting (Denver, Colorado).

Below are some of the themes that our members have proposed for the 2022 meeting, but please also feel free to submit a proposal on topics not represented on this list. If you are interested in contributing to a proposal on one of these topics, please contact the organizer directly.

Flesh, Bone, and Blood on the Boundaries of the Buddhist World (Contact: James Gentry,, and William McGrath,
How do flesh, bone, blood and other bodily substances figure in Buddhist thought and practice as visceral and imaginal media through which to draw, question, cross, blur, collapse, or otherwise work with boundaries—mind/body/world boundaries, social and ritual boundaries, discursive and doctrinal boundaries, sectarian and traditional boundaries, geopolitical boundaries, and boundaries in the academic study of Buddhism?

Performing Time in Buddhist Literature: Creative Reimaginings of Past, Present, and Future (Contact: Elaine Lai,
What kinds of narrative time do Buddhist writings (histories, sādhanas, biographies, sūtras, tantras etc.) perform on audiences, and how might these different embodiments of time invite an alternative sensibility to modernist notions of linear time? Most importantly, how might Buddhist performances of time inspire us to constructively reimagine our collective narrative in this turbulent time of global environmental, economic, and spiritual impoverishment?

Methods, Theories, and Disciplinary Formations in the Study of Buddhism (Contact: Ann Gleig, or Amy Langenberg,
This roundtable seeks to illuminate and explore how diverse methodologies, theories and disciplinary formations shape, expand, and challenge understandings of Buddhism. We seek short research-grounded reflections from scholars working across historic, geographic, and methodological contexts.

The Traumas We Bear: Contemplations on Trauma, Buddhism, and Our Collective Bodies (Contact: Ray Buckner, pronouns: he/they,
Centering experiences of racialized and gendered traumas, this panel will set out to consider how Buddhist thought and/or insights from Indigenous feminist thought, Black Feminist thought, or transgender studies, can help us to think generatively about embodiment, temporality, historical traumas, and livability.

Buddhist Responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic (Contact: Natasha Mikles,
How has the Covid-19 pandemic influenced, transformed or challenged Buddhist practice? Potential topics might include (but are not limited to) the growth of the virtual sangha, transformation of traditional funerary rituals, discourse on the intersection of karma and the virus, the activation of global Buddhist networks to generate aid, Buddhist practices to prevent or heal infection, and Buddhist challenges to or support for public health measures.

Author Meets Critic Panel on Matthew King’s In the Forest of the Blind: The Eurasian Journey of Faxian’s Record of Buddhist Kingdoms (Columbia University Press, March 2022) (Contact: Rae Dachille,
What does an “anti-field history of Buddhist studies” look like? Matthew King experiments with this approach in his study of the nineteenth and twentieth century circulation of the Foguo ji through Europe and Inner Asia. The panel invites responses to questions such as: What does it mean to shift the emphasis in historical approaches to Buddhist worlds from “impact or influence” to “negative space and absence”? How can “circulatory” histories contribute to decolonial, deimperializing, and deorientalising scholarship?

Buddhism, Addiction, and Recovery (Contact: Kate Hartmann, Ira Helderman, and Wendy Dossett; contact
Buddhism can be conceptualized as a path of ethical transformation from a state of maladaptive compulsion to freedom and compassion. As such, to some it speaks to the experience of recovery from substance and behavioural addictions. This resonance has led to a variety of Buddhist-influenced approaches to the treatment of addiction. This panel aims to explore both the historical and philosophical roots as well as the present landscape of Buddhist approaches to addiction and recovery. We welcome contributions from historians, anthropologists, philosophers, psychologists, substance misuse treatment professionals, and others working in Asian and Western contexts.

Buddhist and Indigenous Knowledge in Dialogue (Contact: Melissa Anne-Marie Curley,
How are approaches and interventions from scholars and practitioners thinking with Indigenous knowledge traditions informing (or how might they be made to inform) and generatively brought to bear on questions within the study and practice of Buddhist traditions?

Interpretation as a Pan-Asian Endeavor: Buddhist Scholarship across Borders in the 6th-9th Centuries (Contact: Tom Newhall,
The 6th-9th centuries were a high point of exchange across all parts of Asia. How were Buddhist ideas interpreted, reinterpreted, transformed, transplanted, preserved, or lost across multiple languages, cultures, or societies during this watershed period of time?

Statement of Purpose

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


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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