Panels of Interest at the AAR

The American Academy of Religion will host its annual meeting this year in Chicago on November 17-20. The following are a list of panels of possible interest. More information, including paper abstracts, can be found here.

New Directions in Confucian Ethics
Alexus McLeod, University of Dayton, Presiding
Saturday – 9:00 AM-11:30 AM

Over the past few decades scholars have read Confucian texts in light of ethical theories such as deontology, consequentialism, and, more recently, virtue ethics. This panel engages this conversation and demonstrates how themes of dependence and vulnerability in early Confucian texts push the field of Confucian ethics in new directions. The participants raise questions such as: What insights do early Confucians provide for revising modern conceptions of autonomy? How does the Liji’s portrayal of ritual challenge contemporary theories of moral performance? And how does the early Confucian emphasis on roles provide us with a way to reconceptualize the very notion of a role or relationship? By building on the insights of various ethical theories (especially virtue ethics), each paper demonstrates how issues of vulnerability and dependence shape our moral world and determine the scope and limits of moral development.

Cheryl Cottine, Indiana University
Roles, Relationships, and Chinese Ethics: A Comparative Study

Aaron Stalnaker, Indiana University
Mastery and Dependence in Early Confucianism

Michael Ing, Indiana University
A Tragic Theory of Confucian Ritual

Jung Lee, Northeastern University


Xunzi from Classical Indian Perspectives: Complexity and Ambiguity
Tao Jiang, Rutgers University, Presiding
Saturday – 1:00 PM-3:30 PM

Theme: The Xunzi and Indian Thought: The Xunzi represents a high point in classical Chinese intellectual development. Ideas of the natural and the traditional, order and chaos, disciplinary naming, transformation of desires and inclinations through ritual, discourse on the transcendence, cultivation of virtue, and many others, found in the Xunzi are ripe and appropriate for reading from classical Indian perspectives such as from the Dharma sastras or Mimamsa or even the Mahabharata. Methodology: Textual ambiguity and complexity in the comparative study of Chinese and Indian texts: a major challenge in comparative approaches to texts is that they tend to simplify or homogenize the message of the texts and perspectives under comparison. Our panels will seek to preserve the integrity – ambiguity and complexity – of texts and traditions, even while presenting nuanced and constructive re/readings.

Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, Lancaster University
Order: Nature, Society and Self

Laurie Patton, Duke University
Reading Xunzi through Dharma and Nama

David Lawrence, University of North Dakota
Xunzi and Selected Indian Philosophers on the Purposes, Practices and Limits of Argument

Alexus McLeod, University of Dayton
The Function and Source of Ritual Duty in the Xunzi and the Purva Mimamsa Sutra

Michael Puett, Harvard University


International Society for Chinese Philosophy
Mind, Emotion, and Nature in Confucianism
Saturday – 1:00 PM-4:00 PM


Good Intentions and their Surprising Results: The Unintended Consequences of Confucianism in East Asia
Tao Jiang, Rutgers University, Presiding
Saturday – 4:00 PM-6:30 PM

New religions are created to either reform or replace the existing status quo.  Those religions that succeed quickly spread out to new places and peoples.  Given the different set of conditions, enacting the new religion’s practices might lead to results that are different than intended and anything but benign.  Our papers look at both the unintended effects of Confucian beliefs and practices and the ways in which rulers used them in an unintended manner.  The first paper examines the disastrous effects of making the three-year mourning rites mandatory for all educated men.  The second looks at how the Qianlong emperor manipulated the Neo-Confucian concept of loyalty to castigate anyone who served two dynasties.  The third argues that Korean dictators have used Confucianism to justify their authoritarian regimes.  The fourth notes that Confucian harmony originally meant building trust between the ruler and the ruled, but that now it means suppressing dissent.

Tomasz Sleziak, Adam Mickiewicz University
The Lowered Economic Potential and Administrational Efficiency as a Direct Result of the Prominence of Confucian Metaphysical Discourse during Joseon Period Korea

Keith Knapp, The Citadel
Going through the Motions: Reactions to the Implementation of the Three Year Mourning Rites

Hsueh-Yi  Lin, University of Wisconsin
The Politics of Loyalty in High Qing Loyalist Historiography

Ha Jung Lee, Boston University
Korean Confucianism as a Tool of the Political Hegemony of Dictatorship

Mee-Yin Mary Yuen, Graduate Theological Union
Freedom of Expression as Taboo in Building a Harmonious Society: Unintended Consequences of the Confucian Notion of Harmony in China

Mark Halperin, University of California, Davis


After Appropriation: Explorations in Comparative Philosophy and Religion
Morny  Joy, University of Calgary, Presiding
Saturday – 4:00 PM-6:30 PM

This Seminar will be devoted by presentation of contributors to the volume: “After Appropriation.” Too often the interpretation of the religions and philosophies of non-western peoples has involved  reducing or manipulating their ideas and values to fit solely with western concepts and categories. Also, while the division between the two disciplines of Religious Studies and Philosophy is commonplace in Western academia, this bifurcation does not necessarily apply in non-western settings, where religion and philosophy tend to be integrated. The purpose of the volume was to invite a group of scholars in the two fields of what has been called “comparative religion” and “comparative philosophy.” Their mandate was to explore the current state of affairs in these fields and to explore whether there can be a rapprochement between them. As part of this task, they were also asked to suggest or illustrate alternative approaches to what could be termed intercultural philosophy and religion, where non-western religions are accorded parity.

Katrin  Froese, University of Calgary
The Vices of Ethics: The Critique of Morality  in Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Daoism

Vincent Shen, University of Toronto
Comparative Studies in Philosophy/Religion and Dialogue as Mutual “Strangification”

Tinu  Ruparell, University of Calgary
Locating Comparative Philosophy  in Relation to Religion

Dan Lusthaus, Harvard University
Philosophy, Medicine, Science,  and Boundaries

Ahmad Yousif, Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, Kuala Lumpur
Studying the “Other”: Challenges and Prospects of Muslim Scholarship on World Religions

Chen-kuo Lin, National Chengchi University, Taiwan
Phenomenology of Awakening  in Zhiyi’s Tientai Philosophy

Chris Framarin, University of Calgary
The Use of Lakṣaṇā in Indian Exegesis

Arindam  Chakrabarti, University of Hawai’i
The Connecting “Manas”: Inner Sense, Common Sense, or the Organ of Imagination

Purushottama Bilimoria, University of California, Berkeley and University of Melbourne
Eric Nelson, University of Massachusetts, Lowell


Hell, Nature, and Rhetoric in Chinese Buddhism
James  Benn, McMaster University, Presiding
Sunday – 3:00 PM-4:30 PM

The papers will take up issues involving the different rosters of deities found in various Chinese underworlds and the origins of this diversity, the multiple uses of androcentric rhetoric to delineate the Pure Land in eighteenth century Chinese Buddhism, and the debate over the Buddha-nature of insentient beings and its links with Daoism and Chinese conceptions of principle or li.

C.M. Adrian Tseng, McMaster University
Why Do Insentient Things Have Buddha-nature?: A Re-examination of Jizang’s Claim

Frederick Shih-Chung Chen, University of Oxford
In Search of the Origin of Enumerations of Hellish Kings in the Early Medieval Chinese Buddhist Scriptures

Hongyu  Wu, University of Pittsburgh
Women and the Path to the Pure Land:  Gender and Salvation in the Writings of Chinese Pure Land Believers in the Eighteenth Century


Divination as Religious/Spiritual Practice
Sarah Iles Johnston, Ohio State University, Presiding
Sunday – 3:00 PM-4:30 PM

Divination exists in all cultures and has been highly conserved throughout human history; given population expansion it is now practiced by more people than ever. The proposed session defines divination inclusively as diverse methods for seeking knowledge not attainable by normal means. It investigates the nature of divination across time,  geography, and social strata as a response to the evolving religious and spiritual needs of humanity. Knowledge sought by divination includes not only personal life choices but also ritual propriety, the fate of the dead, the place of humans in the cosmos, and the nature of consciousness. Divination addresses many of the same concerns as religion but until recently has been relatively neglected in academic religious studies. The papers in this panel examine various forms of divination as means for meeting spiritual needs, including the Book of Changes, Nostradamus, ancient and modern astrology, and contemporary psychological reinterpretations.

Tze-ki Hon, State University of New York, Geneseo
Divination as Moral Philosophy: Hexagrams and the Genealogy of the Sages of the Yijing

Richard Smoley, Theosophical Society in America
Nostradamus and the Uses of Prophecy

Geoffrey Redmond, Center for Health Research
Not Yet Complete: The Persistence of Divination in the Modern World


Paradox and the Chinese Ritual Imagination
Thomas Wilson, Hamilton College, Presiding
Monday – 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Chinese rituals are, like rituals in all times and places, full of paradoxes.  This panel will show that paradoxes inherent in ritual texts and performances reveal much about images of the cosmos, divinity, and the body; about the practicalities of self-cultivation and social transformations; even about the notion of ritual itself.  Our panel attempts to connect the study of Daoism to current discussions within the greater field of Religious Studies concerning the importance of paradoxical thinking in religious traditions, by exploring how paradoxes work in specific Daoist ritual texts and performances.  The panel places three disparate rituals in comparative conversation in order to 1) illumine the different kinds of paradoxes that Daoist ritual programs bear, and 2) explore what those paradoxes reveal about the semiotic systems and/or social worlds assumed by each.

Ori Tavor, University of Pennsylvania
The Inherent Paradoxicality of Theorizing Ritual: A Chinese Perspective

Joshua Capitanio, University of the West
Sublimation and Soteriology in Daoist Practice

David Mozina, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Paradox, Divine Reflexivity, and Daoist Ordination Oaths

Kimberley Patton, Harvard University

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