Graduate Students Workshop: “Buddhist Theories of Embodiment”
Graduate Students Workshop:
"Foul Wombs, Lacquered Devices, and the Ancient Tampon: Reading (Critically) for Female Agency in Indian Buddhist Texts"
Scholarly literature on the female body in Indian Buddhism has focused on the extreme negativity of its representations and usually posited its bad effects on women. Vinaya scholarship on Buddhist monasticism has emphasized its paternalism, assuming the creation and implementation of vinaya to be elite, androcentric, and rigidly hierarchical. This paper reconsiders the question of the agentive female in relationship to the trope of the foul female body in an important Indian sūtra on the birth process entitled the Garbhāvakrānti-sūtra, and representations of female sexuality and reproductive processes in vinaya texts, especially those located in the Sanskrit Bhikṣuṇī-vinaya of the Mahāsāṅghika-lokottaravādins. It draws also on postcolonial feminist critiques of the liberal secular feminist concept of agency in order to reconsider the possibility of female innovation and agency in shaping ancient female ascetic lives.
Amy Paris Langenberg is a specialist in Indian Buddhism. She earned her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Columbia University and is now an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Eckerd College.
"Buddha Bodies, Bodhisattva Bodies, Maternal Bodies, Animal Bodies: Reflections on the Body in Indian Buddhism"
Buddhist literature from India depicts a wide range of different types of bodies, including the beautiful bodies of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the highly controlled bodies of disciplined monks, the disgusting bodies of tempting women, the nurturing bodies of loving mothers, and the intensely suffering bodies of animals, ghosts, and hell-beings. How can we make sense of these widely varying images, and what do they have to tell us about embodiment itself?
Reiko Ohnuma is Professor of Religion, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Dartmouth College.
"Rethinking Embodiment, Gender, and Agency in Medieval Japanese Buddhism”
This paper focuses on conceptions of embodiment and agency in medieval Japanese literary/Buddhist texts to argue that far from being universal or ahistorical, these terms have very specific significations that only become intelligible when understood within the broader Buddhist epistemic framework of medieval Japan.
Rajyashree Pandey is Reader in Asian Studies at the Politics department of Goldsmiths, University of London.