This Unit addresses two significant gaps in current scholarship on Chinese and Indian religious traditions. The first gap is in historical scholarship. India and China have been the two mother cultures of South Asia and East Asia. Historically, the two were connected through the transmission and transformation of Buddhism from India to China. This remarkably fruitful incorporation and assimilation of a foreign system of thought and cultural practice into another well-established civilization is one of the first of its kind in the human history of cross-cultural exchanges, especially at such a magnitude. Unfortunately, there has been inadequate scholarly attention paid to how Indian Buddhism — and its central Asian variants — introduced new issues and imaginations to the Chinese people and how the Chinese managed to appropriate the alien tradition into their own intellectual milieu, hence deeply enriching and reshaping the indigenous Chinese culture. Beyond Buddhism, we encourage comparisons between other native Indian and native Chinese traditions. Second, we also seek to redirect some of the attention of the comparative study of religion and philosophy away from the default Western-centered approach. India and China are profoundly important civilizations, both historically and contemporarily. Despite the historical connection of Buddhism, the differences in their cultural products — whether religious, linguistic, philosophical, artistic, or material — are so striking that comparing them would highlight the true richness, plurality, and diversity of human creativity and cultural productivity.
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Indian and Chinese Religions Compared Unit
Call for Proposals
This year we plan to explore the relationships between art, literature, and religion in India and China. We will be holding one traditional papers session and one experimental session:
Religious Narratives and Visual Arts
This will be a traditional papers session. We seek individual papers (rather than fully formed panels) exploring the relationship between religious narratives and visual arts (sculpture, murals, mandalas, illuminated manuscripts, etc.) in India and China. Comparative proposals are welcome, as are proposals focusing exclusively on India or China (so long as the material is accessible to a broader audience).
Religion, Literature, and Global Humanities
This will be an experimental session. The goal is not to present specialized research, but to initiate a conversation between scholars working on religion and literature in India and scholars working on religion and literature in China. What might the study of Indian literature have to offer to scholars of Chinese literature, and vice versa? What challenges are distinctive, and what challenges are shared? How might Indian or Chinese reading practices and literary theory contribute to the global humanities more broadly? The session will begin with a brief statement from each panelist, but the majority of the time will be devoted to open discussion. In lieu of a traditional paper proposal, we ask potential panelists to provide a description of their work, its relation to the field of religion and literature more broadly, and their vision of the global humanities. Potential panelists should also suggest one or two literary examples they might share with a non-specialist audience to illustrate their work.
Statement of Purpose
Steering Committee Members
Adamek, Wendi, University of CalgaryMember Since: 2015
Allen, Michael, University of VirginiaMember Since: 2017
Aviv, Eyal, George Washington UniversityMember Since: 2020
Davidson, Ronald M., Fairfield UniversityMember Since: 2017
Guggenmos, Esther-Maria, IKGF, University of Erlangen-NurembergMember Since: 2017
Heirman, Ann, Ghent UniversityMember Since: 2016
Kleeman, Terry, University of ColoradoMember Since: 2019