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#AsiaNow Speaks with Janet Gyatso

Janet Gyatso is Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies and Associate Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs at Harvard Divinity School, and author of Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet, published by Columbia University Press and winner of the 2017 AAS E. Gene Smith Award for Best Book in Inner Asia. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. The book is about the history of science and its interactions—and tensions with—religion in the context of early modern Tibet (1300-1800). It studies the intellectual history of medical thought in Tibet, and contrasts it with Buddhist thought in the same time and period. It is also interested in the ways in which medical knowledge borrowed from Buddhist practices and values, while still maintaining a certain distance from religious world views. It uncovers deeply humanistic values and practices that were developed in medical circles in Tibet. And it also questions assumptions that empiricism a ...

#AsiaNow Speaks with John Stratton Hawley

John Stratton Hawley (a.k.a., Jack) is Claire Tow Professor of Religion at Barnard College, Columbia University and author of A Storm of Songs: India and the Idea of the Bhakti Movement, published by Harvard University Press and winner of the 2017 AAS Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. India celebrates itself as a nation of unity in diversity, but where does that sense of unity come from? One important source is a widely accepted narrative called the “bhakti movement.” Bhakti is the religion of the heart, of song, of common participation, of inner peace, of anguished protest. The idea known as the bhakti movement asserts that between 600 and 1600 CE, poet-saints sang bhakti from India’s southernmost tip to its northern Himalayan heights, laying the religious bedrock upon which the modern state of India would be built. In A Storm of Songs, I clarify the historical and political contingencies that gave birth to the concept of the b ...

Okinoshima, Japan’s Newly Minted UNESCO World Heritage Site

By Lindsey E. DeWitt On July 9, 2017, Japan received its twenty-first UNESCO World Heritage inscription, making a total of seventeen cultural sites and four natural sites (the full list can be accessed here). The newly designated UNESCO World Heritage site, “Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region,” features a solitary islet just four kilometers in circumference in the middle of the Genkai Sea, some sixty kilometers from the northern part of Kyushu Island. The decision marks the culmination of a nearly decade-long effort and puts a spotlight on the rich religious and cultural landscapes of Kyushu and the broader maritime sphere of the Korean peninsula and the continent. The island’s tiny size and remote location belies its great cultural and historical significance. Japan’s eighth-century chronicles Nihon shoki and Kojiki note Okinoshima as the abode of one of three female deities who descend from the sun goddess Amaterasu (the central deity of Jap ...

AAS Member Spotlight: Pankaj Jain

Pankaj Jain is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of North Texas. Follow him on Twitter @ProfPankajJain. Your discipline and country (or countries) of interest Philosophy and religion; India and the Indian diaspora in the Americas (USA, Canada, Suriname, Trinidad, Guyana). How long have you been a member of AAS? I was a member in 2004-06, then became a member again recently. Why did you join AAS and why would you recommend AAS to your colleagues? As a co-founder of the American Academy of Indic Studies, AAS seems like the perfect association to network with other scholars of Indic Studies. How did you first become involved in the field of Asian Studies? As an M.A. student at Columbia University and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Iowa, I studied Indic religions and their environmental ethics. After completing the Ph.D., I taught Hindi-Urdu, Sanskrit, Bollywood, Hinduism, Jainism, and other Indic subjects at North Carolina State University for ...

Smartphone Baraka: Technological Transference

By James Edmonds Indonesians reach to touch Habib Syech’s hand, drink from his cup, and interact with his presence. I had already sat for several hours, gently sweating, as thousands of people arrived at an open-air building in Solo, Indonesia. The streets outside were full of pedestrians, cars, motorbikes, buses, and the smell of fried tofu. People pressed into the building; some took seats close to the front, while others went to the second level to rest after a long twelve-hour trek, and some stood, impatiently awaiting the arrival of the man they had come to see. Unceremoniously, Habib Syech bin Abdul Qodir Assegaf appeared. He began to walk through the crowds of people, heading toward the front of the building. Along the way, Habib Syech passed out small amounts of cash to the children, shook some hands, and slipped through the many others reaching to touch him. He eventually made it to the front of the building and sat down, immediately stoking the incense coals prepared for his arrival. Hab ...

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