The Politics & Pathways of Return

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The Politics & Pathways
of Return:


Trans-regional perspectives on a Buddhist homeland


University of British Columbia  June 28-29, 2019

           UBC | xʷθəθiqətəm or Place of Many Trees (formerly, Liu
           Multipurpose Room)
           Liu Institute for Global Issues
           6476 NW Marine Drive, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6T 1Z2


          *Please note, the entrance to the Place of Many Trees can be accessed
           from either NW Marine Drive or West Mall

The relationship between religion, nation-states and the notion of "ancestral homelands" have given rise to some of the worst atrocities and most persistent conflicts in the modern world. While there has been significant research on the rise of Hindu nationalism, Hindu-Muslim communal violence, and Sikh national and diasporic movements for Khalistan, the revival and reinvention of a Buddhist homeland in India remains undertheorized in the scholarly literature.

The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhism and Contemporary Society is proud to cosponsor two keynote lectures on this topic from Dr. Anne Blackburn (Cornell University) and Dr. Max Deeg (Cardiff University) next Friday and Saturday, June 28th and June 29th. See below for event details.

**This event is open to the public. No RSVP required.


Max Deeg                                        June 28th • 5:30 – 7:00 PM

"'Terra Sacra' Imagined - 'Terra Sacra' Visited: Buddhist Indian in Pre-Modern Sources"

        The recognition of Northern India, more specifically the Eastern Gangetic Plain, as the homeland of Buddhism was the result of an ongoing process of investigation and discoveries under the British Rāj. This paper will look into the making of the Buddhist ‘Homeland’ in the 19th century and into the entanglement of the “real” and the “imaginaire” not only in the results of scholarly—textual and archaeological—reconstruction of an emerging historical Buddhist India but will also discuss patterns and modes of pre-modern descriptions of the Buddhist sacred land which had an influence, directly or indirectly, on the perception and the reshaping of the Buddhist “Homeland” by Buddhist agents from the end of the 19th century onwards. The main sources investigated will be the Chinese “pilgrim records” so heavily used (and misused) by scholars and Buddhists in this early colonial period of the rediscovery of the Buddhist ‘Holy Land’.

Professor Deeg is a world renowned specialist in Buddhist history, especially the spread of Buddhism from India to Central Asia and East Asia. He has a special interest in Buddhist narratives and their role and function for the construction of historical identities in Buddhist communities. His latest monographs to be published will be one on Buddhist foundation myths and a German annotated translation of the Sino Christian inscription of Xi an from the 8th century. He is currently working on a new English translation and an extensive commentary of the Xiyu ji, the Records of the Western Regions, by the Chinese monk Xuanzang (7th century).

Anne Blackburn                             June 29th • 5:30 – 7:00 PM


"The Promise of Precedent: Magadha, Laṅkā, and Bago"

        The Kalyāṇi Inscriptions composed in 1470s Bago (Burma Delta region) for the court of King Dhammazedi reveal the ways in which imagined geographies of Buddha-sāsana were drawn into premodern local royal and monastic practice outside the Indian subcontinent. We see that Magadha and Laṅkā both figure in the “Buddhist technologies of statecraft” utilized at Bago. How should we understand Dhammazedi’s emphasis on a doubled inheritance, from both Laṅkā and the Indian subcontinent? On behalf of what kinds of Buddhist collectives did the king evoke the authority of Gotama Buddha’s subcontinental arena, as well as ideas of Buddhist kingship?
Anne M. Blackburn is Professor of South Asia Studies and Buddhist Studies in the Department of Asian Studies, and Director of the Cornell South Asia Program. She taught at the University of South Carolina before joining Cornell’s faculty. Blackburn received her BA from Swarthmore College, and MA and PhD degrees from the University of Chicago. Blackburn studies Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia at the intersection of literary studies, intellectual history, and political economy, with a particular interest in Buddhist networks (literary, monastic institutional, political, and trade) linking Sri Lanka and mainland Southeast Asia before and during colonial presence in the region. Her publications include Buddhist Learning and Textual Practice in Eighteenth-Century Lankan Monastic Culture (Princeton, 2001), Locations of Buddhism: Colonialism and Modernity in Sri Lanka (Chicago, 2010), “Buddhist Connections in the Indian Ocean” (JESHO, 2015), and “Buddhist Technologies of Statecraft and Millenial Moments,” (History and Theory, 2017). Research towards her current book project, Making Buddhist Kingdoms Across the Indian Ocean, 1200-1500, was supported by an ACLS Fellowship.


This event is generously sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhism and Contemporary Society; Community; Culture and Global Studies Department at UBC-Okanagan; Centre for India and South Asia Research at UBC-Vancouver; and the Tianzhu Network for the Study of Buddhist Cultures.


Full event details here





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Saturday, June 29, 2019