Call for Papers: Conference on Buddhist Networks

South-East Asia as a Crossroads for Buddhist Exchange: pioneer European Buddhists and Asian Buddhist networks 1860-1960
Study of Religions Department, University College Cork, Ireland
13-15 September 2012

The recent discovery of the extraordinary life of `The Irish Buddhist’ U Dhammaloka (documented in the special issue of Contemporary Buddhism 11:2, December 2010) has stimulated new avenues of research into numerous significant but neglected East-West and global Buddhist encounters. This conference focuses on forgotten or under-represented Buddhist pioneers, their connections and collaborations, and the contribution of these individuals and networks to the construction of Buddhist modernities.

Casting South-East Asia as a `cross roads’ invites contributions on pioneer exchanges and connections not only between `the West’ and `Asia’ but also within Asia, from China, Korea and Japan through Southeast Asia to India and Ceylon. The period to be covered, broadly 1860-1960, is intended to include the earliest documented pioneer European [and e.g. Japanese] Buddhist practitioners of the colonial period whilst stopping short of the mass interest in Buddhism of the late 20th century. We are interested in any figures, groups or networks whose commitment to Asian Buddhist praxis in the colonial period contributed in some way to the emergence of modern global Buddhism and whose role was pioneering, rather than following a traditionally established path. We are equally interested in networks of exchange and communication such as trade routes, monastic interrelationships, military ventures, cultural exchanges, missionary enterprises and imperialist and socialist (etc.) institutions and ideas which enabled Buddhists to interact in pioneering ways during this period

Forgotten figures such as U Dhammaloka, despite their historical significance for these exchanges in colonial Asia, have long been obscured in conventional scholarly narratives which have presented a very small selection of `pioneer’ figures found respectable within today’s Western Buddhist lineages or canonised in Asian accounts. Recent discoveries overturning these entrenched narratives have been made possible in part by the new digitisation and indexing of colonial-era newspapers, travel books, directories, missionary reports and other obscure and disparate sources which can provide – often fragmentary – pointers to lost lives and events which may in the end be documented only through traditional archival research. This conference aims to further this new and exciting field of research by bringing together scholars with a shared interest in global Buddhism and expertise in different periods and regions of Asia and the West.

There are many contested issues and theoretical perspectives to be explored in this context, and we welcome papers of a theoretical nature so long as they are to some extent grounded in empirical examples.

We intend to produce a journal special issue or edited volume based on papers presented at the conference.

The conference will take place from Thursday afternoon 13th September to Saturday morning 15th September 2012 and is hosted by the Study of Religions Department, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland. There is no conference fee but delegates will be responsible for their own travel and accommodation; there is plenty of moderately priced accommodation close by the University. Cork Airport is a short distance from the University and about 1hr by air from London and other major European hubs. Some limited financial support for postgraduates may be available.

The conference is co-organised by Prof Brian Bocking and Dr Phibul Choompolpaisal (UCC Study of Religions Department) with an advisory committee comprising Dr Laurence Cox (NUIM, Ireland), Prof Alicia Turner (York University, Toronto), Dr Andrew Skilton (KCL, London) and Dr Kate Crosby (SOAS, London), in association with the 12-month postdoctoral research fellowship project `Continuities and Transitions in Early Modern Thai Buddhism’ at UCC supported by the Dhammakaya International Society of the United Kingdom. The Conference itself has a far wider remit than Thailand, and papers in all regions are warmly welcomed.

The deadline for submission of abstracts is Monday 9 July 2012, but abstracts will be considered as they are submitted from now on to facilitate your travel planning.
If you hope to attend the conference we would appreciate an email indicating this a.s.a.p.

A conference website will be established in the near future. In the meantime enquiries, expressions of interest and abstracts should be emailed to Prof Brian Bocking in Cork, email: b.bocking [at] or to Dr Phibul Choompolpaisal in Thailand, email: