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Networks and Religious Difference in Asian Buddhist Traditions

Workshop Conveners:
Rob Campany, Professor and Director, Asian Studies Program, Vanderbilt University
Nancy G. Lin, Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Vanderbilt University
Bryan Lowe, Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Divinity School, Room 129
April 3-4, 2015
[ download workshop program ] [download workshop poster]

Buddhist 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 (such as with regard to sectarian distinctions) and in situations when Buddhists encountered other religious traditions. This workshop will explore how Buddhists active in Asia have negotiated difference and categories of identity. We will pay special attention to networks, a term that in the context of this workshop refers not only to human relations but also to those among material objects, practices, texts, and ideas. We 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. We 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.

The workshop was made possible through generous support from the Fant Fund, Office of the Dean, the College of Arts and Science; Department of Religious Studies; Department of History of Art; and the Asian Studies Program. 

 If you would like to attend, please contact Christen Harper ( to register as an observer.