Storied Self: Issues in Buddhist Narrativity (conference)

Buddhism is often reduced to the teaching of non-self (anatman), a simplification that allows for confusion with Western religious and ethical injunctions against being selfish or self-centered. Such confusion also leads to ideas about the value of being self-sacrificing, and the abnegation of oneself.

Obviously, the Buddhist tradition is more complicated, and the ideas of the self and its constitution more complex. One approach to appreciating the complexity of self-formation in the Buddhist tradition—both in the sense of formal doctrinal reflections and actual historical instances—is that of narrativity. What does it mean that the self is constituted through narrative? How can the study of narratives reveal Buddhist conceptions of the self? How does the understanding of the self, doctrinally and narratively, inform experience of oneself, others, and the world around us? The stories that we tell both manifest and create our own self-understandings, our relations to other people, and how we live in the world.

An international conference exploring these issues, entitled

“The Storied Self: Issues in Buddhist Narrativity,”

was held at the University of Oregon, Eugene, beginning Friday 19 October, and running through Sunday 21 October, 2012. Organized by Prof. Mark Unno, the conference brought together ten presenters, and several additional respondents.

Two keynote addresses were given on Friday evening

“Dōgen Zenji on Imagining the Storied Self: A Comparative Inquiry”—Jason Wirth, Seattle University


“Narrative Self and Buddhist Meditation in Western Psychiatry”—Willoughby Britton, Brown University

Response was given by Naoki Nabeshima, Ryukoku University

Saturday morning:

“Presenting the Self/ Self Presence: The Function of Inscriptions in Early Japanese Buddhist Art” Akiko Walley, University of Oregon

Response by Mark Unno, University of Oregon

“Narrating and Materializing the Self in Kamakura Buddhism: Eison and the Cult of Founders”—David Quinter, University of Alberta

Response by Andrew Goble, University of Oregon

“The Body Re-membered”—Eric Tojimbara, University of Oregon

Response by Glynne Walley, University of Oregon

Saturday afternoon:

“The Self is a Self-Constructing Construct: Narrative and Buddhist Praxis”—Richard K. Payne, Institute of Buddhist Studies

Response by Jared Lindahl, Warren Wilson College

“Transforming the Self: Narrativity in Buddhist Stages of the Path Literature”—Jared Lindahl, Warren Wilson College

Response by Richard K. Payne, Institute of Buddhist Studies

“Nishida, Phenomenology, and the Narrative Self”—Elizabeth Grosz, University of Oregon

Response by Michael Stern, University of Oregon

“Bonds Transcending Life and Death: Stories of Suffering and Joy from the Great Eastern Japan Tragedy of 2011”—Naoki Nabeshima, Ryukoku University

Response by Elizabeth Grosz, University of Oregon

“Journey to the West: Issues in Narrativity”—Maram Epstein, University of Oregon

Response by Peter Warnek, University of Oregon

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