Engineering Buddhism: Infrastructure and Soft Power in Asia and Beyond

yasmin cho's picture
Call for Papers
June 23, 2022 to June 24, 2022
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Area Studies, Chinese History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology, East Asian History / Studies

Engineering Buddhism:

Infrastructure and Soft Power in Asia and Beyond

The Center for Contemporary Buddhist Studies

University of Copenhagen

Copenhagen, Denmark  

June 23–24, 2022


Call for Papers:

Buddhist social activities have gained increased visibility recently in national and transnational contexts. Various Buddhist organizations (temples, charity groups, NGOs) have begun to actively engage with social and global issues—education, poverty, environmentalism, etc.—and this, in turn, is changing their relationships to societies, states, and global politics. This workshop addresses these changes in Buddhism, using various ethnographic examples to explore how Buddhism is playing a role in providing platforms and resources for matters that were once largely considered state or political affairs. By focusing on this “new” role of Buddhism at the national and global levels, this workshop asks how Buddhism, and religion more broadly, serve as forms of infrastructure and “soft power” in national and transnational contexts; it examines whether or how Buddhism itself operates as a physical or virtual network, or as a platform for facilitating and (dis)connecting movements, ideas, people, and technologies; and in doing so, how Buddhism challenges, confirms, or transforms state governance and global relationships within and beyond Asian countries.

The workshop will mainly focus on, but is not limited to, the following questions:

  • What are the (new) roles of Buddhism in transnational contexts and how are they taking place? Why now?
  • How does Buddhism function as a form of infrastructure that can support or impede flows of materials, ideas, and people?
  • What does “thinking infrastructurally” or “religion as infrastructure” mean in global Buddhism?
  • Is Buddhism effective as soft power in global politics?
  • What is the relationship between Buddhism and development?
  • What actants are at work and what roles do they play in engineering Buddhist social activities?
  • What does it mean to do ethnographic research on faith-based organizations as forms of infrastructure or soft power for the state? What are the challenges and how are such settings different from non-religious settings?

We seek papers that address these issues in a broad range of societies, not only in Asia where Buddhism has been influential and well acknowledged, but also in countries where Buddhist influence is traditionally weak, but where one can see the clear emergence of Buddhist activities. The papers must be based on original research and have not been published previously. This workshop brings together scholars from around the world who work on this cutting-edge phenomenon of globalizing Buddhism, and in doing so, seeks to understand the new role of Buddhism, and religion broadly, in global society and politics.

Workshop details:

  • Date: June 23–24, 2022. (Full day on Thursday, half-day on Friday)
  • Location: University of Copenhagen, Denmark (on site but virtual participation will be considered if needed)
  • Travel reimbursements: possible
  • Format: pre-circulation of papers 3 weeks before the workshop. Each participant will serve as the discussant for one paper.
  • Paper: No more than 9,000 words including footnotes and bibliography.

Abstract deadline: Oct 31, 2021. Send to

For those who are interested in participating in the workshop, please submit your paper abstract (no more than 500 words) to the organizer, Dr. Yasmin Cho, Marie-Curie Fellow, University of Copenhagen, by Oct 31, 2021. Those who are selected will be notified by Nov 14, 2021.

* Participants are required to submit full papers by June 1, 2022. The papers will be pre-circulated for all to read before the workshop. After the workshop, we plan to submit the papers as a special issue to a peer-reviewed journal. Any questions may be sent to Yasmin Cho.

Contact Info: 
Yasmin Cho
PhD, Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Fellow
Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Contact Email: