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Second Annual Graduate Student Symposium

by Courtney Bruntz
Monday, March 26, 2012, 9:01 am

The Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, CA sponsored and held its Second Annual Graduate Symposium that presented work from graduate students across the United States. Institutions represented included Florida State University, the Graduate Theological Union, the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Maitripa College, Northwestern University, and University of Southern California. Within the fields of Art History, Buddhist Studies, and Religious Studies, students presented papers focused on the theme of Globalization, Tourism, Modernization and the Religions of Asia.

Each student explored how one or more of these topics transforms Religions of Asia, both in Asia and the West. Major issues that arose included global and cultural transformations and translations of texts and practices, modern and contemporary activities of Buddhists, and current exhibitions and presentations of Buddhism and Religions of Asia.

The first panel of students gave papers that raised these issues as related to published materials. Jared Gardner from Maitripa College suggested ways that Buddhist literature on the self can be applied to global capitalism, arguing there is a need to think about globalization from a Buddhist perspective. Chenxing Han from the Institute of Buddhist Studies analyzed popular and scientific perspectives on mindful eating and their presentations of Buddhism, which generated conversations comparing the use of Buddhist ideas in popular versus scientific literature. Finally, Sarah Whylly from Florida State University investigated translations of Tannisho that gave way to discussions of contemporary translations of Buddhist texts and concepts. While these papers were diverse in their areas of expertise, an issue raised among them was the importance of power and publication. Across Asia and into the West, Buddhism is globalized and modernized in new ways, and these presenters evidenced how publications affect Buddhism’s contemporary cultural transformations.

The second panel of students raised issues of tourism, exhibition, and presentations of Buddhism and Religions of Asia. Courtney Bruntz from the Graduate Theological Union investigated how religious tourism before China’s 2008 Olympics impacted Beijing temple reconstruction, and in doing so, she presented the ways in which temples were repurposed to meet the needs of China’s growing tourist market. Xiao Yang from Northwestern University detailed visual strategies of Feng Zikai’s Buddhist-Inflected sketches to analyze the relationship between Buddhist art and the development of a civic body. This raised conversation regarding the connections between the cultivation of new cultural environments and Buddhist-inspired practices. Lastly, Victoria Pinto from University of Southern California looked at ‘The Vision and Art of Shinjo Ito’ exhibit in North America to discuss contemporary representations of Buddhism. In keeping with the other two presenters, Victoria also raised correlations between visual materials and cultural settings. Questions brought up by the presenters included global representations of Buddhism and Religions of Asia, contemporary museum practices, effects of tourism, and visual strategies of artists. Whereas the first panel considered textual material, this second panel focused on the visual, and presenters introduced art and architecture as a means for conveying, exhibiting, and espousing particular religious and political ideals.

For more information on abstracts and papers from this symposium, please contact Scott Mitchell or Courtney Bruntz at courtney.bruntz@gmail.com.

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