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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 ...

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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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Buddhism in Decline: Media Narratives in Thailand

By Brooke Schedneck “In deeply religious Thailand, monks have long been revered. But badly behaved clergy, corruption scandals, and the vast wealth amassed by some temples has many asking if something is rotten at the heart of Thai Buddhism. From selfies on private jets to multimillion dollar donations from allegedly crooked businessmen, Thailand’s monks are coming under increasing fire for their embrace of commercialism.” This quote from Delphine Thouvenot and Thanaporn Promyamyai’s Bangkok Post article from 2015 titled “Chequebook Buddhism: Threat to Buddhism in Thailand?” exemplifies the ways the media, both foreign and Thai, frequently constructs Buddhism in Thailand as existing in a state of collapse. In many opinion pieces, Buddhism is portrayed as a religion in dire need of transformation, reform, or even an entire overhaul. The highest-ranking monks, called the Sangha Council, are criticized for their weak actions and lack of power. Editorials often state th ...

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