Buddhist traditions—in all their diversity—have been formed through processes of exchange, negotiation, and contestation in the face of perceived difference. These perceptions have existed both among individuals identifying as Buddhist (such as with regard to sectarian distinctions) and in situations when Buddhists encountered other religious traditions. This workshop will explore how Buddhists active in Asia have negotiated difference and categories of identity. We will pay special attention to networks, a term that in the context of this workshop refers not only to human relations but also to those among material objects, practices, texts, and ideas. We will consider both how theories of networks afford new insight into the ways Buddhists have negotiated identities and formed trans-regional communities, and how Buddhist communities have been constituted, in part, in relation to religious others. We believe that a focus on networks and on dynamic relationships as opposed to stable entities will open new research questions, offering alternatives to narratives that rigidly assert alterity through reified “sects” or “isms” and to the difference-effacing language of syncretism and amalgamation.
We will examine how theories of networks and a focus on negotiations of perceived difference shed new light on Asian Buddhist traditions in a workshop to be held at Vanderbilt University on April 3-4, 2015. While we hope that all participants will be able to converse on the links between networks and difference, we welcome innovative proposals that address either individual topic. We invite scholars of all ranks, including advanced doctoral students, to apply. Scholars working on both premodern and modern forms of Buddhism in Asia may participate. Please submit a title and maximum 250 word précis along with your current CV to Christen C. Harper, Administrative Assistant, Department of Religious Studies, Vanderbilt University, email: RLSTworkshops@vanderbilt.edu. The deadline for applications is October 31, 2014.
We will provide airfare, accommodations, and meals for the duration of the workshop. It is sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies with generous support of the Fant Fund, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History of Art, and the Asian Studies Program.
Conveners: Robert Campany, Nancy Lin, and Bryan Lowe