Graduate Student Symposium: Buddhist Political Engagements and Imaginaries
October 5, 2018, Institute of Buddhist Studies, Berkeley, CA

The theme of the 2018 Graduate Student Symposium is Buddhist political engagements and imaginaries. How has Buddhist thought, cosmology, or ethics been used to engage, disengage, critique, or conform to systems of political power? Far from being wholly disinterested in secular affairs, Buddhists have over the millennia engaged the world in various ways, from tantric rituals for the longevity of the emperor and the protection of state to the Buddha’s ten duties for the king, from lay precepts and advice for marriage to wholesale rejections of lay life and retreat to the monastery. In this symposium, we hope to explore the various discursive strategies Buddhists have used historically and contemporarily to reimagine Buddhist worlds in the present moment, to critique or support political systems, and develop practices and approaches to the path in line or at odds with social norms.

Topics include but are not limited to: political reimaginings of traditional Buddhist cosmologies, doctrines, or practices; contemporary lay or monastic engaged Buddhist movements, their successes and shortcomings; the intersection of gender, race, class, nationalism or identity and Buddhist political thought; nationalist movements and their Buddhist supporters and detractors. Papers from any Buddhist tradition, region, or historical period will be considered.

Dr. Melissa Anne-Marie Curley, Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University and author of Pure Land/Real World: Modern Buddhism, Japanese Leftists, and the Utopian Imagination (University of Hawai’i Press, 2017), will serve as the symposium keynote speaker.

Graduate students at any stage of their program are encouraged to submit paper proposals. Please send abstracts of no more than 500 words to Thomas Calobrisi ( Please include your academic affiliation with your submission. The deadline for submission is June 15, 2018. Applicants will be notified about their submission by July 15, 2018.

Call for papers: 2018 graduate student symposium