The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Research Fellowships in Buddhist Studies

The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies offers an articulated set of fellowship and grant competitions that will expand the understanding and interpretation of Buddhist thought in scholarship and society, strengthen international networks of Buddhist studies, and increase the visibility of innovative currents in those studies.

The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Research Fellowships in Buddhist Studies offer support for research and writing in Buddhist studies for scholars who hold a PhD degree, with no restrictions on time from the PhD. These fellowships provide scholars time free from teaching and other responsibilities to devote full-time to research and writing on the project proposed.

This program is made possible by a generous grant from The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation.

Read more about this program.

Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows' names for current information.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia
Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia  |  Abstract
How does place and environment shape the practice of Buddhism? This project considers this question by examining the history of Buddhism in the northeast Indian state of Sikkim. The environment of Sikkim historically inspired mountain deity cults, forest medical traditions, and agriculture that provided the resources for powerful monasteries that were part of the government. In 1975, Sikkim was absorbed into India, but Buddhism has remained central to Sikkimese life even as relationships with the landscape changed due to the introduction of new forms of development such as hydroelectricity. Patterns of land and water resource management and local conceptions of ecology provide a rich avenue for exploring the interaction between Buddhism and the environment in the era of the anthropocene.

Lecturer, School of Religion, University of Southern California  -  Blessings from the Valley of Abundance: An Environmental History of Sikkimese Buddhism

David (Max) Moerman
David (Max) Moerman  |  Abstract
This book-in-progress asks how Buddhist materials and methods constructed the bonds of trust and obligation necessary for political, juridical, military, economic, and sexual relations in premodern Japan. It challenges previous scholarship by viewing these relations as overlapping fields of practice, with a common corpus of Buddhist documentary and ritual forms and shared networks of meaning and agency. In arguing that the rules of truth and evidence in religion, law, economy, and sexuality were mutually informing in premodern Japan, this project seeks to resituate Buddhism within the history of social institutions, and Buddhist Studies within the study of social history.

Professor, Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Barnard College  -  Buddhism as Social Practice: Talismanic Oaths and Divine Retribution in Premodern Japan

Robert DeCaroli
Robert DeCaroli  |  Abstract
This project examines the relationship between the early Buddhist community and the terrestrial gods of South Asia. The work has two primary goals. First, because yakshas, nagas, and other such demigods were typically regional in nature, I will geographically and chronologically situate them on the South Asian landscape. Using archaeological, inscriptional, and textual sources, I will identify the locations associated with the cults of specific deities. Second, it is revealing to consider the political, ideological, and sectarian reasons why Buddhists at times embraced and at times distanced regional gods. Ultimately, the ebb and flow of Buddhist interaction with deities has more to do with changing political and cultural concerns than it does with strictly ideological Buddhist matters.

Professor, History and Art History, George Mason University  -  The Gods of Buddhism: Regional Deities and Spirits in Early South Asia

Pegah Shahbaz
Pegah Shahbaz  |  Abstract
The project aims to propose a better understanding of the translation and transmission of Buddhist tales and concepts into Persian literary culture from the sixth to the fourteenth centuries. It will explore the development and dissemination of the Persian versions of the life story of Buddha, entitled "Belawhar wa Buyuzasf," through a meticulous study of the extant corpus of Persian texts and the environment in which they were produced. In order to map out the adaptation of this Buddhist narrative in the Perso-Islamic context, different versions of the story in Persian will be compared to their related Indic sources. This research project will provide us with a more accurate understanding of how the exchange between Buddhist and Persianate cultures in Central Asia continued up to the late medieval period through translation and literary production.

Visiting Scholar, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University  -  Representations of the Buddha in Persian Literary Culture: The Case of Belawhar and Buyuzasf

Hank Glassman
Hank Glassman  |  Abstract
This is a proposal to spend one academic year and one summer writing up chapters of a book on the gorinto, or five-cakra stupa. This object is best known in its form as a stone grave monument, but has been used in various ways over the centuries before becoming the standard depiction of the gravestone in early modern pictorial representations. The current project traces the history, ritual, and iconography of this object, following it from it origins as a mnemonic for meditating on the five yogic elements, to a jeweled caskets for holding Buddha relics, to bone remains of royals, to stone monuments dedicated to sect founders or erected corporately by large confraternities of believers, to individual family sites where the wooden gorinto elements are mixed with stone ones.

Associate Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Haverford College  -  On the Iconography, Ritual, and History of the Gorinto Grave in Japan

Ashley C. Thompson
Ashley C. Thompson  |  Abstract
I seek a Ho Foundation Research Fellowship to complete a monograph provisionally entitled The Work of Buddhist Art: Reconstructions of Cambodia after Angkor. The book’s aim is two-fold: first, to trace the emergence, in the immediate wake of the Angkorian empire (thirteenth to sixteenth centuries), of a distinctive architectural and sculptural tradition, and the way it reflected and accompanied the emergence of a particular historical consciousness; and second, to explore a fundamental, and indeed generative tension in Buddhist art from its very inception—between the aniconic and the anthropomorphic—and its role at this watershed moment in Cambodia’s cultural and political history. Analyses will probe in particular the gendered dimensions of the nexus of aesthetics and politics at hand.

Professor, History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS, University of London  -  The Work of Buddhist Art: Reconstructions of Cambodia after Angkor

Anne R. Hansen
Anne R. Hansen  |  Abstract
In modern Cambodia, as in other parts of Southeast Asia, Buddhist prophesies about the inevitable decline of the Buddha’s teachings (Dhamma), the end of religion and the appearance of the next buddha have served as powerful and pervasive responses to social turmoil, violence, and changes in sociopolitical order. When Religion Ends: Buddhist Prophetic Temporality in Cold War Southeast examines the importance of these Buddhist ideas of time and history during two critical periods of the Cold War period in Cambodia, arguing for their importance in the decolonizing Theravada world in relation to nation-building, regional Buddhist networks, and anti-communism, and as a way of ordering and interpreting the traumatic violence of the 1970s Khmer Rouge genocide and ensuing civil war.

Professor, History & Religious Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  When Religion Ends: Buddhist Prophetic Temporality in Cold War Southeast Asia