AAR> Buddhist Philosophy Unit Sessions at the American Academy of Religions

Karin Meyers's picture

Dear Colleagues,

I share below the Buddhist Philosophy Unit sessions that will be running Nov 29-Dec 10 at the (virtual) American Academy of Religions annual meeting. If you are not yet registered for the meeting, you can still do so here: https://aarweb.org/AARAnnualMeeting2020. 

Please note that the business meeting for the Buddhist Philosophy Unit will be on Tuesday at 5:30pm (EST UTC-5) following "Buddhist Philosophies of the Material" (and in the same Zoom room). We will be discussing future directions for the Buddhist Philosophy Unit (including ways to better represent the racial, cultural and geographic diversity of Buddhist philosophy scholars and scholarship).

Buddhist Philosophies of the Material /Tibetan Buddhist Philosophies of Materiality - co-sponsored with the Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Unit

Tuesday, December 1, 4:00 PM-5:30 PM (EST UTC-5) 

This panel sets out to question the boundaries of the Buddhist Studies philosophical canon and reigning depictions of the Buddhist philosophical enterprise by considering how Buddhist thinkers in Tibet have theorized the significance of material objects and the wider material world, and how this has been integrated into religious practices, narratives, and cosmologies. The broader aim of this panel is to draw critical attention to assumptions in the scholarly construction of Buddhist philosophy as a cross-cultural category by highlighting areas of inquiry—in terms of both source materials and topics—that tend to be elided in our scholarly productions and exchanges. It also aims to recalibrate the study of Buddhist material culture by highlighting the central relevance of Buddhist philosophical discourse and theorization in this endeavor. Papers each highlight a different aspect of how Buddhist thinkers in Tibet have theorized the roles of material and sensorial objects and encounters in framing the Buddhist soteriological project, thereby underscoring what Buddhist philosophical studies stands to gain by including a broader spectrum of perspectives. We will be discussing topics for next year's annual meeting as well as taking nominations for the Steering Committee.



  • Ana Cristina Lopes, Stanford University (presiding)
  • David Germano, University of Virginia

  • Devin Zuckerman, University of Virginia

  • Adam Liddle, University of Virginia

  • James Gentry, Stanford University

  • Catherine Hartmann, Harvard University


Roundtable on Roy Tzohar's A Yogācāra Buddhist Theory of Metaphor (Oxford University Press, 2018) - quad-sponsored with the Yogacara Unit, Hindu Philosophy Unit, and Indian and Chinese Religions Compared Unit


Thursday, December 3, 1:45 PM-3:15 PM (EST UTC-5)


This roundtable brings together six scholars to discuss the intellectual achievements of and new avenues of inquiry opened by Tzohar’s book, 2018 winner of the prestigious Toshihide Numata Book Award in Buddhism. The roundtable discussion will highlight the way that Tzohar’s book – ostensibly just an articulation of the Buddhist philosopher Sthiramati’s view that all language is metaphorical, itself an ambitious and rewarding achievement – also accomplishes much more, including the careful contextualization of Sthiramati’s work in relation to other Buddhist and to non-Buddhist schools of South Asian philosophy of language, and the thoughtful and creative articulation of the relationship between Buddhist philosophy of language and other central ontological and soteriological concerns of Buddhist thought. Discussants are drawn from diverse sub-fields in Buddhist and South Asian philosophy and literature, and Tzohar will be a respondent.



  • Tao Jiang, Rutgers University (presiding)
  • Jonathan Gold, Princeton University
  • Laurie Louise Patton, Middlebury College
  • Joy Brennan, Kenyon College
  • Richard Nance, Indiana University
  • Catherine Prueitt, University of British Columbia
  • Parimal G. Patil, Harvard University
  • Roy Tzohar, Tel-Aviv University (responding)


Perspectives on Douglas Duckworth's Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy of Mind and Nature (Oxford University Press, 2018)


Wednesday, December 9, 4:00 PM-5:30 PM (EST UTC-5)


Douglas Duckworth’s recent book, _Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy of Mind and Nature_, paints a picture of Buddhism in Tibet accessible to a non-specialist philosopher. The book presents Buddhist thought in broad strokes, filling a void to go along with the numerous fine-grained studies and translations of particular texts, figures, and schools that have appeared in the last two and half decades. This panel will bring together scholars of Buddhism who work in different regions around _Tibetan Philosophy of Mind and Nature_ to discuss different streams of philosophy that come into creative tension and complementarity across Buddhist cultures. The panel connects scholars of philosophical traditions in diverse Buddhist cultures to respond to issues raised in the book and to explore ways that Duckworth’s work addresses both parallel and orthogonal philosophical problems in those Buddhist cultures. The aim of this panel is to invite scholars of Indian Buddhism, Korean Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism to reflect on the book and discuss ways that the themes addressed resonate across the Mahāyāna Buddhist world.



  • John Makransky, Boston College (presiding)
  • John Dunne, University of Wisconsin
  • Wendi Adamek, University of Calgary
  • Jin Y. Park, American University
  • Constance Kassor, Lawrence University
  • Douglas Duckworth, Temple University (responding)


Best wishes,


Karin and Tao

AAR Buddhist Philosophy Unit Co-chairs


Karin Meyers (karin.l.meyers@gmail.com)

Academic Director, Mangalam Research Center


Tao Jiang (tjiang@rutgers.edu)

Associate Professor, Rutgers University


Categories: Conference