The field of Buddhist Modernities provides a focused way of examining the distinctive development of the varied and complex forms of Buddhism within the contexts of multiple modernities. This field includes such areas of inquiry as how Buddhist institutions have been defined by, and defined themselves against, colonial regimes and nation-states, as well as how Buddhists have responded to changing social structures and technological developments. This area approaches the study of Buddhist communities within the context of their particular societies, economies, and political systems, but also understands the study of Buddhist Modernities as necessarily translocal, both because Buddhist practices such as meditation and mindfulness have traveled globally and because modernity is an unfinished project with a global reach. Buddhist Modernities further seeks to bring the study of Buddhism into conversation with emerging subfields in religious studies, such as religion and the environment, religion and technology, and contemplative studies.
Core faculty have expertise in global meditation movements, Southeast Asian Buddhism, American Buddhism, Buddhism in contemporary China, Tibet, and Taiwan, and the intersection of Buddhism and new technologies.
Students are expected to have mastery of relevant Buddhist traditions, while also benefitting from coursework and training with faculty in other areas of the department, to take advantage of the methodological diversity within Religious Studies.
In consultation with their advisor, students will determine which language(s) are most essential for their research; this will typically include at least one modern Asian language.
Students in Buddhist Modernities typically take three exams. The exam topics are chosen in consultation with their advisors. Previous topics have included modern religion in a specific geographic region, modern Buddhism, and theory and method.