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This unit invites proposals for either whole panels or individual papers on the following topics.

Border Regions of India and China
How is the concept of ‘border’ constructed, discussed and represented in religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and Daoism? What are the directions of influence across and along these borders in historical and recent contexts? What are the connections between borderline and liminal practices/beliefs and geographical border regions?

Interaction of Local Gods and Cults with Institutional Religion
In which ways have local gods and cults interacted with institutional religion both within Indian and Chinese traditions and across boundaries? How do cult elements of South Asia travel into and manifest in China and vice versa? What was the contact and exchange between mainstream and ex-centric traditions and cultures? Which is “mainstream”: State and court religion, or local and popular rituals and practices?

Comparing Tantric and Daoist practices
This panel invites in-depth comparative exploration of Tantric and Daoist practices. What, if anything, do they have in common, and what is unique to each? How are such practices expressed in different languages? Papers may focus on texts and/or material culture to draw out the imbricated aspects of these religious practices. Themes may include body, breath, visualization, ritual, hygiene, public space, architecture, social practice, etc.

Co-sponsored with Religion, Medicine and Healing Unit
The Materiality of Asian Medicines and Religions Compared
This panel invites paper proposals that compare the intersections of Asian medical traditions with Buddhism, Daoism, and/or Hinduism, with a particular focus on the material culture of healing. Topics may include the comparison of medical practices and practitioners, botanical knowledge, other materia medica, geographical routes of transmission, body map illustrations, surgery, merchants and markets, biographies, alchemical practices, gendered bodies, physical movements and bodily hygiene (such as yoga, martial arts, diet, etc.), food, medical records, and other material aspects of healing. Proposals should also attend to related theoretical issues.

Mission Statement:

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.

Method of Submission:




Dan Lusthaus, lusthaus@g.harvard.edu

Karen O'Brien-Kop, karen.obrien-kop@roehampton.ac.uk


Steering Committee:

Eyal Aviv, aviv@gwu.edu

Gudrun Buhnemann, gbuhnema@wisc.edu

Ronald M. Davidson, rdavidson@fairfield.edu

Esther-Maria Guggenmos, esther-maria.guggenmos@fau.de

Ann Heirman, ann.heirman@ugent.be

Terry Kleeman, terry.kleeman@colorado.edu


Session Allotment: Tier 1 – Two 90-minute sessions

Next Review: 2021