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AAS Member Spotlight: Thomas Patton

Thomas Patton is Assistant Professor in the Department of Asian and International Studies, and Associate Director of the Southeast Asia Research Centre, at the City University of Hong Kong. A scholar of religious studies, Patton is a specialist in Buddhism in Southeast Asia—specifically Myanmar—and has been a member of the AAS since 2005. Why did you join AAS and why would you recommend AAS to your colleagues? When I was a masters student living in Boston in 2003, a classmate asked me to drive him to New York City to visit his friend who was presenting at an AAS conference. While sitting in the lobby of the conference venue, I was beside myself to hear dozens of people talking casually about Asian Studies as if they were chatting about the weather. I immediately registered for the conference and spent the remaining 3 days enthralled by the conversations and interesting people I met, one of whom would later become my PhD advisor. How did you first become involved in the field of Asian Stud ...

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#AsiaNow Speaks with Daniel A. Hirshberg

Daniel A. Hirshberg is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Mary Washington and author of Remembering the Lotus-Born: Padmasambhava in the History of Tibet’s Golden Age, published by Wisdom Publications and winner of Honorable Mention for the 2018 AAS E. Gene Smith Book Prize. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. In Remembering the Lotus-Born I rely on an interdisciplinary approach to Buddhism, historiography, and cultural memory theory to explore the construction and evolution of what is arguably Tibet’s most popular narrative, its conversion to Buddhism under the “Lotus-Born” guru, Padmasambhava (eighth century). An historically shady Indian tantrika, he was invited to Tibet during the imperial apogee under Tri Songdetsen (d. ca. 800). Remembering the Lotus-Born focuses on the biographical and historical narratives of Nyangrel Nyima Özer (1124–92), who is renowned as the first of the great Buddhist “treasure revealers.&rd ...

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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 ...

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#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 ...

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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 ...

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