Asian Religions

asian street festival

This field comprises the study of the various religious traditions of Asia, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism, both in Asia and in its diaspora. It centers on their historical as well as contemporary developments, examining the ever changing relations between belief and practice, religion and politics, and tradition and modernity. It encourages research projects that draw on critical studies in the humanities and social sciences, employing diverse methods such as textual analysis, archival work, ethnographic research, and survey research. As an academic track [field], it brings together – though not limited to – studies of theories of religion; anthropology of ethics; ritual studies; examinations of the flow of religious knowledge; the use of diverse Asian languages; studies of literary, visual, and performing arts; studies of material culture and popular movements; postcolonial religious politics; and studies of transnational practices.

Students should take advantage of the extensive offerings in Asian languages, literature, history, anthropology, sociology, and art history at Duke in their area of concentration. Students are also encouraged to take full advantage of the offerings in Asian and religious studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University in constructing their curriculum and selecting committee members.

Related Research Group: “Asia in the Making of American Religiosity” Duke Humanities Lab

Convener: Anna Sun

Major Field Requirements

  • Course Work
    • Must focus studies on a particular religious tradition/region:
      • East Asian Buddhism in Asia and the diaspora from the 17th Century to the present
      • Japanese religions from the 17th Century to the present
      • South Asian religions, particularly non-Islamic traditions in South Asia and diaspora in the colonial and post-colonial periods
      • Chinese religions
      • Daoism
    • 4 Courses each semester for 2 years
      • Courses should be selected so that students will not be required to complete more than 2 major research papers in a single semester
  • Languages
    • Must demonstrate by exam a reading knowledge of 2 languages other than the student's native language (Choice of languages depend on focus on student's work.)
    • Expertise in the primary source language(s) associated with student's subfield will be demonstrated by either coursework or examination
  • Responsible Conduct of Research Training
  • Preliminary Examinations
    • 4-hour major field exam
    • 3-hour dissertation-area exam
    • 3-hour minor exam, normally inside minor
    • 3-hour additional minor exam, normally outside minor
    • 2-hour oral examination
  • Dissertation

Inside Minor Requirements

  • 2 courses

Asian Religions

Krishni Metivier: "Can A Hindu Be Black?: A Study of Black Americans in Hinduism." 2020. Co-Advisors: Richard Jaffe, Joseph Winters

Rebecca Mendelson: “Democratizing Zen: Reform and Innovation in Modern Japanese Rinzai (1868-1945).” 2020. Advisor: Richard Jaffe
Jeffrey Nicolaisen: “Equality Of Life: “Thinking with Multi-species Relationships in Taiwan.” 2019. Co-Advisors: Hwansoo Kim (Yale), Richard Jaffe
Seth Ligo: “Fear and Fruition: Bhairava in Text, Art, and Practice.” 2019. Advisor: Leela Prasad

Yasmine Singh: "Goddess in Flux: Devotional Intimacy and Everyday Life at a Regional Indian Pilgrimage Site." 2019. Advisor: Leela Prasad

Mani Rao: "Visionary Experience of Mantra. An Ethnography in Andhra-Telangana." 2016. Advisor: Leela Prasad

Matthew Mitchell: Beyond the Convent Walls: The Local and Japan-wide Activities of Daihongan's Nuns in the Early Modern Period (c. 1550-1868)." 2016. Advisor: Richard Jaffe

​Jeff Schroeder: "After Kiyozawa: A Study of Shin Buddhist Modernization, 1890-1956." 2015. Advisor: Richard Jaffe

Uri Kaplan: "Transforming Orthodoxies: Buddhist Curriculums and Educational Institutions in Contemporary South Korea." 2015. Advisor: Richard Jaffe