Workshop to Explore Difference in Asian Buddhist Traditions

YongningsiDualImagesBuddhist 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 (with regard to sectarian distinctions) and in situations when Buddhists encountered other religious traditions.

“Networks and Religious Difference in Asian Buddhist Traditions” is the focus of a workshop that will be held Friday and Saturday, April 3-4, at the Vanderbilt Divinity School, room 129. The workshop will explore how Buddhists active in Asia have negotiated difference and categories of identity. Conveners are Rob Campany, professor and director, Asian studies program, Nancy Lin, assistant professor, departments of religious studies and history of art, and Bryan Lowe, assistant professor, department of religious studies.

The workshop will pay special attention to “networks,” a term that in this context refers not only to human relations but also to those among material objects, practices, texts, and ideas. Workshop participants 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. The conveners 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.

Nancy Lin will make introductions and map the intellectual project at the beginning of the workshop on Friday morning, April 3. In the afternoon she will moderate the panel discussion on “Regimes of Knowledge Through Monastic Networks.” Tracy Miller, associate professor of history of art, will moderate the Saturday morning panel (April 4) on “Translocal Objects, Sites, and Structures.”

The workshop is made possible through generous support from the Fant Fund, Office of the Dean, College of Arts and Science; the Religious Studies and the History of Art departments, and the Asian Studies program. For those who wish to attend the workshop as an observer, please contact Christen Harper (

*Images: Reconstructed plans after Zhong Xiaoqing, “Bei Wei Luoyang Yongningsi ta,” modified by Tracy Miller, associate professor of history of art, Vanderbilt University

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