Max Moerman: "Cartography, Cosmology, and the Epistemology of Vision"
When the first Christian missionaries arrived in Japan in the 16th century, cartography and cosmology were essential to their strategy of conversion. But as Jesuits argued for a global earth and heavenly spheres as evidence of a divine plan, Buddhist monks argued for the world and the universe as articulated in Indian Buddhist texts. The worldview advocated by these monks entailed both a Buddhist theory of the world and a Buddhist theory of vision in which the limited optics of the human eye are incommensurate with the panopticism of the Buddha. This talk will trace the discourses, diagrams, and devices of Buddhist cartography and cosmology that developed throughout the 18th and 19th centuries yet were grounded in classical Buddhist notions of vision and knowledge.
D. Max Moerman is a Professor in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Barnard College, Columbia University. His interests in the spatial imagination of Japanese Buddhism are focused on the representation of religious worldview in ritual, visual, and material culture. His publications include: Localizing Paradise: Kumano Pilgrimage and the Religious Landscape of Premodern Japan (2005), “The Archeology of Anxiety: An Underground History of Heian Religion” (2007), “Dying Like the Buddha: Intervisuality and the Cultic Image” (2008), “Demonology and Eroticism: Islands of Women in the Japanese Buddhist Imagination” (2009), and the forthcoming The Japanese Buddhist World Map: Religious Vision and the Cartographic Imagination.