"Reading Asvghosa Across Boundaries," Tel Aviv University, December 2015

Conference Announcement: "Reading Asvghosa Across Boundaries," Tel Aviv University, 25 December 2015. The conference is open to the public.

Theme: Aśvaghoṣa (first to second centuries CE) was an Indian poet who is believed to have originated from a north-Indian Brahmin family and that later converted to Buddhism. Apart from his works of Sanskrit drama, from which we unfortunately have only fragments, Asvghosa's poetical works – the buddhacaritam and the saoundarananda - are the earliest extent works in the genre of extensive poetry (mahāKāvya) in India. According to traditional sources Aśvaghoṣa worked under the patronage of the Buddhist king Kaniska during the golden age of the Kushan empire, which extended from Turfan in the Tarim Basin to Pataliputra on the Gangetic plain, controlling the trade routes to central and East Asia. The kushan patronage of Buddhism played an important role in the transmission of Buddhism from India via the silk road to east Asia. Aśvghoṣa's celebrated work The life of the Buddha (Buddha-carita), which set the standard for the description of the Buddha for centuries to come,  was translated into Chinese in the fifth century  and into Tibetan in the seventh century and achieved canonical status. 

Considering the prominence and the importance of Aśvghoṣa's works and persona – to the understanding of the history of Sanskrit poetry, to the understanding of Indian Buddhism in a transitional stage and to its introduction to East Asia – the scholarly attention that he has received to date is surprisingly modest. We hope that this conference, which brings together scholars who work on Aśvghoṣa and on his works from a variety of perspectives in different Asian contexts, is just the first step in a long-term and comprehensive exploration of Aśvghoṣa works. We plan to publish the papers presented today and hopefully hold a sequel workshop in the near future.

Tel Aviv University, December 25, 2015, organized by Roy Tzohar.



"Religion, Violence, and the Asian Martial Arts," Tel Aviv University, November 2015

Conference Announcement: "Religion, Violence, and the Asian Martial Arts," Tel Aviv University, 23 November 2015. The conference is open to the public.

Theme: The Asian martial arts defy the semantic categories that have been applied to them by Western scholarship.   Combining military, therapeutic, and spiritual goals they do not fit into any of the categories familiar in the European and American traditions of physical education.  Indeed, the very term "martial" is misleading or limiting, considering their multifarious dimensions of fighting, healing, and religious self-cultivation.  Hence, the Asian martial arts fit perfectly into the broad theoretical scheme of the Tel Aviv University "Asia in its Own Terms" project.  The topic enables us to ponder the applicability of Western terminologies to the Asian cultural sphere: For example, does our vocabulary suffice to describe the richness of the Shaolin martial arts, or do we need to rely upon the Chinese Buddhist language to render its quintessential characteristics.

Tel Aviv University, November 23, 2015, organized by Meir Shahar.



"Multifaceted Divinities in Japan and Beyond," Tel Aviv University, May 2016

Conference Announcement: "Multifaceted Divinities in Japan and Beyond," Tel Aviv University, 29-31 May 2016. The conference is open to the public.

Theme: The international conference discussed the currently “hot” topic of the multifaceted, complex divinities that populated the medieval Japanese pantheon and worldview. It concentrated on individual or groups of divinities, on their continental origins, on the processes of their creation, their changing characteristics through time, and looked at the interaction of Buddhism and local cults, and on the construction of divine and political power in medieval Japan.  Bernard Faure, whose recent two-volume in-depth study on the Japanese medieval pantheon inspired this conference, gave the Keynote address. Focusing on Japan, the conference aimed to open a broader theoretical discussion on the multivalent identity of gods in East Asian cultures.  The conference thus opened with the first panel on the roots of multivalence in India and China.  The following panels discussed the localization of Buddhism and the combinatory processes, and the changing identities of medieval deities.  Next the emerging medieval Shinto deities were discussed, followed by investigations on the survival and deconstruction of the “combinatory paradigm” in the later Edo and Meiji periods.  The last panel again framed the topic with Asian perspectives, presenting multifaceted deities from India, China and Korea. 

Tel Aviv University, May 29-31, 2016, organized by Irit Averbuch.



"Endangered Bodies: Asian Formations," Tel Aviv University, May 2016

Conference Announcement: "Endangered Bodies: Asian Formations," Tel Aviv University, 22-23 May 2016. The conference is open to the public.

Theme: On the second year of the Asia on its Own Terms Program at the Department of East Asian Studies at Tel Aviv University, we chose Body and Gender as our scholarly focus. The program is committed to pursuing comparative discourse among the three great cultures of Asia - India, China, and Japan (and beyond them) in order to redefine and delimit narratives and terminology for exploring Asia. Questioning accepted boundaries - political, cultural, linguist, regional, and disciplinary. In the endangered Bodies International Workshop, which hosted both international and local experts and advanced students, we conducted a heated and engrossing discussion that aimed to refine and redefine the theoretical and scholarly discourse of gender by examining Asian concepts as expressed in various Asian cultural constructs, products, texts and philosophy.

Tel Aviv University, May 22-23, 2016, organized by Galia Patt-Shamir, Roni Parciack and Ofra Goldstein-Gidoni.