International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies XVIIth Biennial: Essay Abstract

Subjectivity in Pure Land Buddhism is the theme of the XVIIth Biennial Conference of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies, Berkeley, CA, August 7–9, 2015

Conference Poster: 2015.11×, more conference information here

Conference Announcement reads: Join us in Berkeley for the 17th Biennial meeting of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies, the largest international professional organization devoted to studies of Pure Land Buddhism. Our theme this year explores the concept of subjectivity. How has subjectivity — who “I” am or who “we” are — been understood across Buddhist cultures and histories? How does subjectivity come into being? How is it known? How is it experienced?

my own perhaps overly ambitious proposal for the conference:

“Embodied Activity in Pure Land Buddhism: At the Interface of Subjectivity and Objectivity”

Abstract: The body is the interface of subjectivity and objectivity. And a very fuzzy interface it is—since subjectivity, understood here as the structures of lived experience, is able to withdraw inward by objectifying various “aspects/components of the human person” such as one’s habits or preferences, or extend outward by incorporating various external objects, e.g., extending one’s senses out through a car to feel the texture of the road. This analysis will focus on some of the different kinds of embodied activity, particularly ritualized activity, as found in the Pure Land tradition. Theoretically, it will draw on the Martin Heidegger’s distinction between “present-at-hand” (vorhanden) and “ready-to-hand” (zuhanden), and Merleau-Ponty’s discussions of subjectivity and the body, both revealing the “fuzzy” interface of subjectivity and objectivity, and also William S. Sax’s ideas regarding the performative construction of the self.[1]

[1] Dancing the Self: Personhood and Performance in the Pāṇḍav Līla of Garhwal, Oxford 2002

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