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Collective Karma and Karmic Collectives: Conversations without Borders Seminar

Call for Proposals for November Meeting

Year two–Karma cluster concepts in religious narratives (oral and literary)

This year’s seminar seeks to amplify the voices of marginalized groups by looking into non-canonical sources, especially genres that are known for their rootedness in local cultures such as theaters, plays, transformation texts (Ch: bianwen), bāul songs. Equally important, to gain a well-rounded picture of indigenous ways of doing philosophy and conducting moral reasoning, Year two also aims to explore new approaches and methods that could attend to both local nuances and trans-local connections.

More specifically, based on themes proposed during our business meeting at AAR 2023, scholars interested in the following themes are invited to email the contact person for each theme as follows:

  • How karmic story-telling makes society: An interreligious dialogue (Greg Snyder,
  • Karma & interreligious relations (Rohit Singh,
  • Karma of time (Brandon Dotson proposed, contact person Jessica Zu
  • Karma and socio-political theory (Rohit proposed, contact person Jessica Zu co-sponsor with BPU\
  • The potential and limits of karma as transformative justice (Ann Thuy-Ling Thran,

Scholars interested in themes other than the above-mentioned ones are welcome! If you have further questions and/or suggestions for new topics, feel free to contact the co-chairs, Jessica Zu ( and Susanne Kerekes (

Statement of Purpose

Mission Statement

This Seminar investigates karma as shared or communal. Past scholarship has uncritically privileged an individualist approach to karma and has overlooked the centrality of sociokarma in non-canonical sources and lived experiences. Thus, we invite scholars to work together to uncover these marginalized voices “without borders” (across religious traditions, regions, disciplines, and methods). So, how do we bridge conversations without borders? Through a perspective that we call “karma-cluster concepts,” i.e., karma and its related terms in diverse socio-historical contexts. 

We invite scholars who can contribute to a fuller picture of the following questions: (1) when, how, and why the debates about individual and collective karma arose in canonical sources and in scholarship; (2) how karma is interpreted in noncanonical texts such as minor commentaries, code of conducts, poetry, theatre, plays, and other forms of storytelling; (3) how collective karma is employed as tools of social engagement (e.g., eco-karma, racial karma, national karma); (4) how karma animates the spiritual practices of marginalized groups such as low-rank ascetic women, working-class lay followers including elderly women, gender and sexual minorities, and people with disabilities; (5) how karma weaves together a world of relations, where spirits, ancestors, animals, trees, rocks, rivers … are agentive;  (6) when, how, and why karma drops out of the moral repertoire of a group or a culture; and (7) assessing contemporary philosophical and tradition-based advancements of collective karma as responses to urgent issues. 


Steering Committee Members


Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members