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Call Text:

The Buddhism Unit welcomes proposals for papers sessions, individual papers, and roundtables 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 is made up of individuals with specializations ranging from ancient Indian to contemporary North American Buddhism. We ask that organizers work to put together panels that are diverse in ways including but not limited to race, gender, rank, and type of institution. WISAR (http://libblogs.luc.edu/wisar/) is an excellent resource for ensuring gender balance.

This year, we again ask you to keep in mind the possible session allotments, which are as follows: three 2-hour sessions and three 90-minute sessions with an additional 2-hour session with co-sponsorship.

We have already accepted two panels that deferred to 2021: "Challenging Privilege in Buddhist Institutions and in Buddhist Studies" and "Manifestos for Buddhist Studies."

The presidential theme this year is "Religion, Poverty and Inequality: Contemplating Our Collective Futures” and we welcome proposals on this topic. Please note that AAR will no longer hold 2.5 hour sessions.

As always, we encourage new and innovative formats. Please do not submit a paper as both an Individual Paper Proposal and as part of a Papers Session Proposal. We will consider papers submitted as part of a Papers Session Proposal for potential inclusion in an omnibus session of individual papers.

Below are some of the themes that our members have proposed for the 2021 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.

-Aesthetics, Fashion, and Community Inclusion in Buddhism—Contact: Amy Langenberg (langenap@eckerd.edu)
How do styles of dressing, being, laughing, talking, emoting, moving, greeting, designing spaces, singing chants, and other aestheticized or affective practices strengthen, shape, or otherwise influence community inclusion and exclusion in Buddhist contexts?

-Poverty as Rhetorical Trope and Lived Reality in Buddhism—Contact: Chris Jensen (ChristopherJensen@cunet.carleton.ca)
In keeping with the Presidential Theme for this year's AAR ("Religion, Poverty, and Inequality"), this panel will explore the polyvocal perspectives on poverty found in various Buddhist traditions. How is the suffering of poverty expressed, explained, or explained away? How are idealized images of poverty (e.g., the Buddha's paradigmatic renunciation) accorded with lived realities of economic privation? Given that South Asian perspectives on renunciation and mendicancy were not shared in many of the cultural contexts in which Buddhism eventually became established, this topic also provides a logical entry point into issues related to the creation and development of particular, localized Buddhisms, by considering the ways that the trope of poverty was translated or transformed in other cultural contexts. Open regional and temporal focus, centering on Buddhist narrative traditions (e.g., didactic stories, biography, autobiography, hagiography).

-Poverty, Misfortune, and Failure: Reflections on the Opacity of Karma—Contact: Kate Hartmann (Catherine.Hartmann@uwyo.edu) and Brandon Dotson (dotson.brandon@gmail.com)
The Buddhist doctrine of karma is often invoked to explain present misfortune. But individuals do not generally know their own karma, or what they might have done, whether in this life or a past life, that has led to current circumstances. In their paper "Narrative, Sub-ethics, and the Moral Life," Charles Hallisey and Anne Hansen refer to this idea as the opacity of karma. This panel takes up the Presidential Theme of “Religion, Poverty, and Inequality” by asking how Buddhists at various places and times have used ideas of karma in making sense of their difficult circumstances. How do they talk about their own karma, try to discern the causes for present situations, or reflect on how karma relates to poverty and misfortune generally? The panel asks, moreover, how these articulations of karma might reframe the way scholars think about or teach about karma. We welcome scholars specializing on Buddhism in any geographical area or time period. Depending on the level of interest, we may propose a panel in the Buddhism Unit, the Tibetan and Himalayan Religion, Chinese Religions Unit, or propose a co-sponsored panel.

-The Lived Realities of Buddhist Economics—Contact: Matthew D. Milligan (mattdmilligan@gmail.com)
To date, much of the study of the developing field “Buddhist Economics” has mainly focused on theoretical approaches to resolving perceived contradictions between Buddhism and the modern Capitalist world. Most work has sought to redefine the category of moral practice for lay Buddhists or to rethink political and ecological justice concerning activism. Paper proposals for this Call should seek to move beyond theoretical approaches to Buddhist Economics and instead analyze past or present Buddhist cultures in their lived religious realities across the globe. This group of papers seeks to bring the theme of everyday religion (through materiality, ethnography, ritual practice, etc.) into focus alongside how Buddhists throughout the world have engaged with or are currently engaging with markets or market forces. Open regional and temporal focus.

-Perspectives on Bodhicaryāvatāra VI.9-10—Contact: Douglas Duckworth (tuf27084@temple.edu)
Seeking diverse doctrinal, ethical, and psychological perspectives on this pair of verses for short (5 min.) presentations at roundtable session.

-Class and Contemporary Buddhism—Contact: Justin Ritzinger (j.ritzinger@miami.edu)
Class has been an underutilized term of analysis in the study of Buddhism. AAR’s 2021 theme of “Religion, Poverty, and Inequality” offers an opportunity to redress that lacuna. This panel will examine the role of class in contemporary Buddhist communities. How does class (broadly construed) impact Buddhist thought, practice, and lifeways in different societies? How does it intersect with other factors, such as gender? How do groups with different class locations interact with and/or position themselves vis-à-vis one another or larger social units (city, country, all sentient beings)? Papers focusing on lower-class or underprivileged groups and communities are particularly welcome.

-New Books in Buddhist Studies—Contact: Bryan Lowe (bdlowe@princeton.edu) and Reiko Ohnuma (Reiko.Ohnuma@dartmouth.edu)
The Buddhism Unit's Steering Committee expressed interest in sponsoring a panel on new books. If you are interested in participating or organizing, please contact the co-chairs of the Buddhism Unit, Reiko and Bryan.

-Buddhist Responses to Covid-19 - Contact: Nicholas Haight (nhaight2@illinois.edu)

This panel seeks to explore the various responses by Buddhist temples and organizations around the world to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic has spread all across the world over approximately the last year, it has changed the nature of religious activity everywhere. The questions this panel seeks to address are how have Buddhist organizations’ ritual considerations, relationships with the laity, and other community concerns changed or stayed the same during the pandemic across the world? What continuities can we see from the past to the present with regards to ritual responses to this worldwide tragedy? How have recent trends in religion and society informed and affected these activities and changes thereof? This topic seeks to add to the swelling wave of scholarship surrounding the pandemic and its implications on the lives of people everywhere. It also seeks to offer a window through which to see how responses differ by country, culture, and outside trends and circumstances. Open to studies of Buddhist temples and organizations anywhere in the world, centered on the new developments in the last year. 



Mission Statement:

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.

Method of Submission:




Bryan Lowe, bdlowe@princeton.edu

Reiko Ohnuma, reiko.ohnuma@dartmouth.edu


Steering Committee:

Erik Braun, braun@virginia.edu

Rae Dachille, raedachille@email.arizona.edu

Ann Gleig, ann.gleig@ucf.edu

Eric Greene, eric.greene@yale.edu

Sonam Kachru, kachru.sonam@gmail.com

Rongdao Lai, rongdao.lai@mcgill.ca

Annabella Pitkin, apitkin@lehigh.edu

Dominique Townsend, dtownsend@bard.edu


Session Allotment: Tier 5 – Three 2-hour sessions and three 90-minute sessions

Next Review: 2024