Call for Papers for AAS 2023

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Call for Papers: Hand-Hewn Buddhist Caves Across Asia
AAS Annual Conference. March 16–19, 2023 
Boston, MA (In Person)

Panel Title: Hand-Hewn Buddhist Caves Across Asia

Caves are some of the oldest Buddhist spaces. The first Buddhist caves were natural formations, their grottos and recesses providing places of refuge, convocation, and reflection for the Buddha and his disciples. Notably, directly after the Buddha’s death the Sattapaṇṇi cave in what is now Rajgir, India served as the site of the first Buddhist council.

By around 260 BCE, during the reign of the Mauryan king Asoka, Buddhists began hand-carving caves out of rock-ledges around South Asia, evidencing a well-developed class of stone-carving artisans. As Buddhism spread throughout Asia, the practice of hand-carving caves followed, and the continent is now peppered with hand-hewn Buddhist caves.

Some hand-hewn Buddhist caves are celebrated examples of human architectural ingenuity and craft, while others are less ornate and known only to a small group of locals. Be they famous or relatively unknown, these caves were dug out by the hands of the devout, who made interior spaces within the surface of the earth as an active part of their Buddhist practice. In the present day, hand-hewn Buddhist caves feature heavily in Buddhist craftspeople’s understandings of lineage, the codification of Buddhist art history, and the connections between the human and the divine as they are mediated through the landscape.

This panel presents hand-hewn Buddhist caves from across Asia as sites of interface where humans, the land, and the divine comingle and collaborate. By focusing on hand-hewn caves, this panel will explore the connection between place-making and crafting, and how these activities respond to and draw out the numinous possibilities embedded in the built and natural environment. 

In service to this, we seek papers that investigate how hand-hewn Buddhist caves reveal ways in which topography, materiality, and craft practices impact and cocreate ideas about power, the past, the future, community, and numinosity.  

To submit a paper proposal for inclusion in this panel, please send:
paper title 
250-word abstract
and academic affiliation details to:

Anthony Lovenheim Irwin

Please send abstract by Monday, August 1st

Categories: CFP