Religious Studies Ph.D. candidate, Or Porath, awarded Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in Buddhist Studies

The American Council of Learned Societies just announced that Or Porath, Ph.D. candidate in Religious Studies, was awarded a prestigious Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in Buddhist Studies for his project on “Intimate Dharma: Buddhism, the Body, and Imperial Authority in Medieval Japan.”

The project explores the Buddhist discourse on the body and sexuality by examining initiation rituals conducted in medieval Tendai monasteries in Japan (12th-16th centuries). It focuses on an esoteric ritual called chigo kanjō (“the consecration of acolytes”) which initiated youthful novices into the Dharma through their participation in non-reproductive sexual acts. This project assesses the significance of a doctrinally sanctioned sexual regime within Buddhist monastic society, and illuminates the strategies used for the deification of youths through their identification with the Japanese Emperor and Buddhist divinities. The dissertation demonstrates how Tendai doctrinal concepts, such as the Three Truths Theory (santai) and the Threefold Contemplation were mobilized to sanctify and politicize heterodox practices. As such, the sectarian nature of chigo kanjō as a Tendai ritual must be taken into consideration in order to understand the role of youths and their relation to the broader category of sexual rituals in Buddhism.

Postdoctoral Scholar and Lecturer in Arabic Language and Literature, 2017/18

The Department of Religious Studies seeks to appoint a postdoctoral scholar and lecturer of Arabic Language and Literature for the 2017/18 academic year. Recent recipients of the PhD. (January 1, 2015 to June 30, 2017) who have not held the position of assistant professor are eligible to apply. Must teach five courses in Arabic language and literature, three of which will be third year Arabic language (Fall, Winter and Spring quarters). A Ph.D. in Religious Studies, Arabic language and literature, Near Eastern or Middle Eastern Studies, or related field is required. See details here:

International Conference: “Repositioning Shugendō: New Research Directions on Japanese Mountain Religions”

Time: June, 19-20, 2017

Location: McCune Conference Room (HSSB 6020)

About the Conference

This conference aims at reconsidering the study of Shugendō through a historico-religious perspective, in contrast with the currently dominant ethnological approach. The participants will discuss doctrinal and practical interactions between Shugendō and other religious traditions such as Onmyōdō (“Way of Yin and Yang”), Shintō, and Esoteric Buddhism, in order to situate Shugendō within the broader Japanese religious mindscape. In particular, the influence of Shugendō not only in relation to sacred mountains (as it is mostly done), but also to rural areas and urban centers will be addressed. Moreover, the nature of “mountain religion” in general shall be problematized as a complex set of diverse phenomena involving not only Shugendō specialists, but also members of other religious traditions and even non- affiliated laypeople. The ultimate objective of the conference is to lead to a thorough reconfiguration of the sacred cultural geography of Shugendō. In detail, papers will focus on the following themes: (i) Visual, literary, and artistic strategies related to En no Gyōja, the legendary founder of Shugendō, as mechanisms of reinvention of the past and establishment of authority through texts, images, and symbols; (ii) sacred mountains located in peripheral areas such as Togakushi and Yudono, or Mt. Fuji (which was the place of practice for non-Shugendō mountain ascetics as well); (iii) networks involving Shugendō practitioners and other religious figures such as itinerant ascetics or lay members of religious confraternities (), as a way to bring to the fore the complex systems of alliances, competitions, and collaborations that always characterized Shugendō institutions.

Organized by

Carina Roth, Andrea Castiglioni, Fabio Rambelli, and Kawasaki Tsuyoshi

Sponsored by

UC Santa Barbara’s:

  • Shinto Studies Chair
  • Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies
  • Department of Religious Studies
  • College of Letters and Science
  • East Asia Center

With the Support of the Association for Asian Studies/Northeast Asia Council and the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research C (JSPS)/Research on Inclusion and Legitimization of En no Gyōja Hagiographies in Medieval Exo-Esoteric Temples” (16K02389, Spokesperson: Kawasaki Tsuyoshi).


IN THE NEWS: UCSB Conference on U.S.-China Forum to Discuss Climate and Environment

From The Santa Barbara Independent:

U.S.-China Forum to Discuss Climate and Environment

Conference Brings Scholars Together at UCSB over Earth Day Weekend

The weekend Santa Barbara celebrates Earth Day is being marked at UCSB by a conference that brings together scholars from the U.S.and China to discuss the eco-issues of the day. Organized by the university’s Confucius Institute and Bren School, the two-day talkfest features keynote talks by Michigan State University’s Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, Jianguo “Jack” Liu, and New York University’s founding director of Environmental Studies, Dale Jamieson.

Mayfair Yang

Conference organizer Mayfair Yang noted of the two major polluting countries: “The U.S. is such a huge country for climate change deniers, contrary to China. While China is a huge polluter, they don’t deny climate change. They have made a lot of effort to try to stem it.” Yang, a cultural anthropologist and director of Confucius Institute, added that China had good environmental laws: “The main problem is implementation, especially among lower-level local officials. China also has this problem of not moving quickly to shut polluting industries, because what are they going to do with those people out of jobs?”…


Read Full Story:

“Teaching Islamic Law (After 9/11, After Paris, or at Any Point in the Future),” by Prof. Ahmad A. Ahmad

Professor Ahmad Atif Ahmad posted on The Huffington Post about why he chose to study Islamic law and how he came about developing the Religious Studies’ undergraduate teaching program centered on the topic.

Read the full entry: “Teaching Islamic Law (After 9/11, After Paris, or at Any Point in the Future)” by Prof. Ahmad Atif Ahmad


Special Topics Courses in Religious Studies for Spring 2015

This spring quarter, Religious Studies is offering five “Topics in Religious Studies”. Below are the course numbers and titles with downloadable course flyers:

  • RGST 190JA/FEMST 185EG Politics of Veiling in Modern Egypt (pdf)
  • RGST 190VM – Gods, Minds & Bodies (pdf)
  • RGST 190NF – World Making: Religious, Fictional and Virtual (pdf)
  • RGST 190JD – Jewish Dream Interpretation from the Bible to Freud (pdf)
  • RGST 190IEVocabularies of Islamic Ethics (pdf)
  • RGST 190TC – God, Death, Love: On Seeing and Believing in Mystical Theology and Continental Philosophy (pdf) *(posted 3/10/2015)