AAS Member Spotlight: Pamela D. Winfield

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Dr. Pamela D. Winfield, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies; Coordinator, Asian Studies Program at Elon University

Religious Studies, visual culture, Japan

How long have you been a member of AAS?

Since 1998

Why did you join AAS and why would you recommend AAS to your colleagues?

I joined AAS while in graduate school to familiarize myself with the field, to network within it, and to look for jobs. I would continue to recommend AAS to my colleagues today for the same reasons, but today I would also add that AAS offers generous grants for research, travel, publications, and conference programming, and that their national and regional conferences still are some of the best places to hear the latest research in our interrelated, cognate disciplines.

How did you first become involved in Asian Studies?

After living and working in Japan for 2 ½ years in the early 1990s, I decided to study Japanese Buddhism at Temple University thanks to its generous Russell Conwell fellowship. While in Philadelphia, I also took courses in East Asian art history at the University of Pennsylvania.  I was extremely fortunate that my committee members from both institutions worked together to oversee my very interdisciplinary dissertation. I did not have the opportunity to become directly involved in an Asian Studies program, however, until I became coordinator of the Asian Studies Program at Elon University in 2009.

What do you enjoy most or what have been your most rewarding experiences involving your work in Asian Studies?

Because the Asian Studies Program is a small interdisciplinary minor at Elon, I mostly enjoy connecting with the students and with my colleagues from other departments and divisions across the university. It has been extremely rewarding to see the program grow: in the past six years we have more than doubled our numbers of declared minors and affiliate faculty members, and more than tripled our curricular offerings. In addition, our Global Education Center has added several new study abroad programs in India, Vietnam, Bhutan, and Singapore, and also started a new Business program in Shanghai to complement our staple programs in China, Japan, and the Pacific Rim. Our new Asia Resource Room also provides a physical space on campus where our students can gather, read manga or the JAS, watch regional videos, plan special events, etc.

Tell us about your current or past research.

I was very gratified that my first monograph Icons and Iconoclasm in Japanese Buddhism: Kūkai and Dōgen on the Art of Enlightenment (Oxford University Press, 2013) won the Association of Asian Studies – Southeastern Conference (AAS-SEC) Book Prize this year.  I am currently working on a co-edited volume with Steven Heine (Florida International University) on Zen and Material Culture which will also be published by Oxford University Press. This will be the first interdisciplinary volume to bring scholars of religious studies and art history together to discuss the material and visual dimensions of Zen Buddhism in Japan.

What advice or recommendation do you have for students interested in a career in Asian Studies?

Work on your language(s) first.  It is absolutely foundational for everything else in your career.

Outside of Asian Studies, tell us some interesting facts about yourself.

I grew up in Greenwich Village in New York City, and I studied European languages and art history at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.  I studied abroad in both Fiesole and Paris, and upon returning to the States, I completed internships at Sotheby's, the National Gallery of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  My first job out of college was at Harvard's Dumbarton Oaks Museum and Collections, where I developed a deep appreciation for Byzantine art. After my first trip to Japan, I took 6 months to backpack home slowly, and have continued to travel to 39 countries so far. I worked for Sony Design Center in NY for two years before going back to graduate school, and I taught at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC for five years before joining the faculty at Elon in 2008. That year we also started our insta-family (3 boys in 17 months), and we bought and renovated our first home last year.

"AAS offers generous grants for research, travel, publications, and conference programming, and their national and regional conferences still are some of the best places to hear the latest research in our interrelated, cognate disciplines."

— Pamela Winfield