Dates: April 24th – June 29th, 2023
All talks take place in Lecture Room 1 at 5:00pm, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Pusey Lane, Oxford, OX1 2LE
All are welcome for tea and snacks at 4:15 – 4:45pm (Common Room in the basement)
All enquiries should be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, April 24th, 2023
Donna Marcus Dean
‘Identity without Essence’: Self and gender in the Soreyyatheravatthu
Abstract: Through a close reading of the soreyyatheravatthu, this lecture will explore how contemporary queer and trans theories can productively be used as a hermeneutic tool in the analysis of Pāli literature. Found in the Dhammapada Aṭṭhakathā, the text details the story of Soreyya/ā, an individual who undergoes two spontaneous sex changes on their eventual path to enlightenment. Drawing upon the likes of Judith Butler, Sara Ahmed, Paul B. Preciado, Lee Edelman and Michel Foucault, particular focus is placed upon the commonalities between early Buddhist conceptions of no-self/anattā and queer conceptions of the constructed self and gender.
Biography: Donna Marcus Duke is a writer and producer based in London. Their writing on queer/trans culture and politics has been featured in the likes of Dazed, I-D, Vogue Italia, AnOther, Frieze and 3AM. In 2021, they were appointed both a BBCxICA New Creative and a Frieze New Writer. They hold an MA in Writing from the Royal College of Art and BA in Religion and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies from St. Peter’s College, Oxford.
Monday, May 1st, 2023
Thomas Borchert (University of Vermont)
Barami and Bureaucracy: Mechanisms of Monastic Power in Contemporary Thailand
Abstract: While Theravada monks have ‘left-home’ and are supposed to be ‘above politics’, they are figures who wield significant power. Much of this power is indirect. Monks in Thailand are unable to vote in elections or hold political office, and their capacity to engage in business activities and earn money is greatly constrained by Buddhist discourse, by legal structures in Thailand, and by Thai religious cultures. And yet at the same time, they are the builders of institutions, and their words can be deeply influential within the public sphere. Still for many of us, there is something incongruous about Theravada monks and power. While there is significant scholarship discussing Buddhism and politics in Thailand and other Theravada communities, there is relatively little work examining how and when monks are able to be powerful actors in society. Drawing on interviews and observations of monks in Bangkok in the last decade, this paper seeks to lay out the parameters of monastic power in contemporary Thailand.
Biography: Thomas Borchert is Professor and Chair of Religion at the University of Vermont. His scholarship focuses on monks as religious actors in contemporary Theravada societies. He has conducted research in Southwest China, Thailand, and Singapore, and has published numerous articles on Buddhism and politics, nationalism, monastic education, ethnicity, and Theravada secularities. He is the author of Educating Monks: Minority Buddhism on China’s Southwest Border (University of Hawai’i Press, 2017), and the editor of Theravada Buddhism in Colonial Contexts (Routledge 2018).
Monday, May 15th, 2023
Laurence Cox and Brian Bocking
Researching colonial Buddhist history from below – Irish-Burmese monk U Dhammaloka, subaltern perspectives and plebeian movements
Abstract: The problem is not always whether the subaltern can speak: it is whether anyone will record and archive it when they do. Moreover, when working-class radicals seek to avoid repression, this can be entertaining for historians but also a problem for their research. With Alicia Turner and the help of an extensive international network of researchers, Laurence Cox and Brian Bocking spent a decade researching the Irish emigrant, sailor, hobo, Buddhist monk and anti-colonial activist U Dhammaloka (1856 – 1913?) – a man with at least five aliases, a 25-year gap in his biography, the target of police and government surveillance and a proto-extradition attempt, someone who faked his own death and eventually disappeared. The lecture discusses some of the challenges of ‘history from below’ in relation to working-class voices, radical social movements, and subaltern ethnicities. It also notes the specific interests of religious organisations and academic disciplines in constructing suitably respectable origin myths to fit contemporary needs.
Biography: Laurence Cox is Professor of Sociology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth and has published widely on Buddhist Studies and social movements. A particular area of interest has been uncovering the history of Irish involvement in late C19th and early C20th Buddhist Revival activities in Asia and Europe, including the first Buddhist mission to Europe (1889-1892). With Alicia Turner and Brian Bocking, he recently published The Irish Buddhist: the Forgotten Monk who Faced Down the British Empire (OUP 2020), using the life of Dhammaloka as a lens to explore Asian Buddhist networks.
Brian Bocking (MA Lancaster, PhD Leeds) is emeritus Professor of the Study of Religions at University College Cork (retired 2015), previously holding posts at the universities of Stirling, Tsukuba, Bath Spa and SOAS, London. He works on Japanese religions, Buddhism and the Study of Religions. His books include the first English translation of the 5th-century Chinese text of Nagarjuna’s Middle Treatise (1995); a Dictionary of Shinto (1996), a study of the changing form and interpretations over four centuries of a key Japanese religious scroll known as ‘The Oracles of the Three Shrines’ (in Japanese: Sanja Takusen) (2000), and works with Alicia Turner and Laurence Cox on the life of the 19th-century Irish Burmese monk U Dhammaloka and with Yoshinaga Shin’ichi on the Irish Japanologist and pioneer London Buddhist missionary Charles J W Pfoundes (1840-1907).
Monday, June 26th, 2023
A debate on infinity paradox in Chinese Buddhist tradition
Abstract: The discussion on ‘infinity paradox’ (無窮過) is widely seen in philosophical traditions around the world, such as those in China, India, and Greece. In the field of ontology, it is generally used to derive the first cause. In the debate on specific propositions, it is used as a fallacy proof. For instance, Chinese philosophers like Zhuangzi, Guo Xiang and their Indian counterparts, such as Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, and others have all explored the problem of ‘infinity paradox’. After Buddhism was introduced to China, Hua-yan Buddhism philosophers such as Zhiyan and Fazang interfused the two major traditions and proposed the theory of ‘endless origins’ (無盡緣起). Zhang Taiyan (章太炎), a modern philosopher, responded to this based on his philosophical position of ‘Tathagata Monism’ (真如一元論) and put forward different views. This lecture will review relevant literature and analyze the dual perspectives of Buddhist philosophy on this issue.
Biography: Professor Song WANG received his B.A. and M.A. from Peking University and Ph.D. in East Asian Buddhism from the International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies, Tokyo. Prior to teaching at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies of Peking University in 2005, he conducted his postdoctoral research as Overseas Researcher of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). His publications include A Study on the Thought of the Huayan School in the Song Dynasty (2008), Japanese Buddhism: From the Beginning till 20th century (2015), and A Critical Annotation and Study on the Huayan Fajie Guanmen (2016), and numerous papers on East Asian Buddhism in Chinese, Japanese and English.
Kindly supported by Glorisun Global Network for Buddhist Studies.
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