Graduate Study

Asian Religious Traditions (ART)

ART offers training in the study of Asian religions in their historical and
cultural contexts.  Students are expected to choose their tradition or region of specialization from among the fields of expertise of the Brown faculty, currently in the following areas:

EAST ASIAN RELIGIONS (EAR)

  • Chinese thought and religion of the classical period
  • Early Daoist contemplative traditions
  • Japanese religion and thought (16th-19th centuries)
  • Confucian traditions

SOUTH ASIAN RELIGIONS (SAR)

  • Ancient South Asian religions
  • Medieval and early modern South Asian religions

EAST ASIAN RELIGIONS (EAR)

Description

Students of East Asian Religions specialize in the religious traditions of either China or Japan, but attain broad competence in the religious history of the alternate area as well.  Students may also choose to concentrate on a specific religious tradition (Daoist, Confucian, or Buddhist) as it developed in the East Asian historical context.  Those who specialize in the Daoist tradition study its origins and development in the intellectual context of early China and selected later developments.  Students who concentrate on the Confucian tradition study its emergence and development in the intellectual context of early China as well as major Neo-Confucian interpretations.  The study of Buddhism focuses especially on its Japanese developments of the early modern period.  Regardless of their area of concentration, all EAR students are expected to develop an understanding of the key issues involved in the historical interaction of the religious traditions of East Asia.

Admission

Successful applicants to the doctoral program in East Asian Religions ordinarily possess an M.A. or the equivalent in a related field of study.  At least two years of either Chinese or Japanese is required.  Excellent command of English, both spoken and written is also required.

Coursework

Courses are selected each semester in consultation with the student's primary advisor.  EAR students are expected to complete at least six graduate seminars or the equivalent; at least four of the seminars will be in the main area of concentration (Chinese or Japanese religions); at least two should be in the secondary area.  In addition to the departmental course requirement in theory and method (RELS 2000), before their first preliminary examination each student should complete RELS 1190 or the equivalent, as well as a survey course in Chinese religions.  These two courses will count toward the seminar requirement if the student submits a successful graduate-level paper for the course requirement in each case.

EAR students also take courses in the Department of East Asian Studies and are encouraged to draw on resources in the Departments of History, History of Art and Architecture, Comparative Literature, and Anthropology, among others.  In addition, a course in Chinese or Japanese bibliography (depending on the area of specialization) is required.  Students may cross-register for this and other specialized courses at Harvard University, as appropriate (subject to the Harvard instructor's approval).

Languages

EAR students must attain reading competence in at least one modern European language other than English (ordinarily French); in consultation with their advisory committee, they may count one East Asian language for the departmental second modern language requirement.  Native speakers of an East Asian language will be asked to demonstrate mastery of a second modern East Asian language and a modern European language other than English. 

Students of Chinese religions must demonstrate competence in modern Chinese, proficiency in classical Chinese, and reading competence in modern Japanese.  Students of Japanese religions must attain proficiency in modern Japanese and competence in classical Japanese; depending on their period of specialization, they should also learn how to read Sino-Japanese (kanbun).

Graduate students are urged to take intensive language courses in the summer whenever possible, so as to complete their requirements in a timely fashion.  EAR students are also encouraged to refine their language skills in China and/or Japan during summers or other limited periods during the course of their graduate studies.  Enquiries about the possibility of financial assistance for language study should be made well in advance of the projected study program.

Preliminary Examinations

The first two doctoral examinations are based on bibliographies negotiated by the student and the advisory committee several months in advance.  The first exam covers the history of Chinese and Japanese religions as a whole; the second focuses on the student's special field.  Each of these two exams will take place on a separate day within a one-week period, ordinarily before the beginning of the second semester adter the completion of coursework.

The third and final examination is a research paper written under the guidance of one of the members of the examination committee.  The purpose of the paper is to certify that the student is qualified to carry out primary research in her or his special field; the topic should be related to the student's projected thesis area and should demonstrate substanital use of both primary and secondary materials in the student's main research language(s).  The paper may take the form of an annotated translation of a primary text in the original research language, accompanied by an extensive analytic introduction.  The topic of the paper must be chosen in consultation with the student's main faculty advisor, who will ordinarily become the dissertation supervisor.  

Dissertation Research

Students of Japanese or Chinese religions are generally expected to conduct on-site research using original sources, whether primary texts in archives and libraries, works of art in museums, interviews with subjects, or other materials.  In many cases, primary texts must be located, read, and understood under the guidance of a Japanese or Chinese specialist in the field. EAR graduate students should therefore plan to conduct research for an extended period, usually one year, in China or Japan after their dissertation prospectus has been approved.    Ordinarily they wil apply for fellowships to conduct research abroad in the fall of the year preceding the academic year in which they plan to live in China or Japan.

SOUTH ASIAN RELIGIONS (SAR)

Description

Students of South Asian Religions focus on the Hindu religius traditions of India and specialize either in the traditions of ancient Indian religion (Ancient South Asian Religions: ASART) or the traditions of medieval and modern India (Medieval and Early Modern South Asian Religions: MEMSART).  Students work closley with their advisors to develop a program that will best suit their interests and prepare them for a career as a teacher and scholar of South Asian religions. 

Admission

Applicans should have significant preparation in the academic study of South Asia and South Asian languages, including ordinarily at least two years of either Sanskrit or Hindi-Urdu.

Coursework

Students normally take six semesters of course work and then spend two years in the research and writing of the Ph.D. dissertation.  Depending upon the needs of their particular program, students are encouraged to take courses in other Brown departments that bring them into contact with modern and contemporary contexts of South Asian religions and to seek out opportunities for periods of study and research in India in the course of their graduate careers.

Languages

Required language work is one of the principal distinctions between studying Ancient South Asian Religions and studying Medieval and Early Modern South Asian Religions.  The first requires passing the General Sanskrit reading exam; a Special Sanskrit Reading Exam; and reading proficiency in both German and French.  Students in this area are encouraged to study Hindi at some point in their careers, if at all possible.  The second requires passing the language exams in Hindi; two years of graduate level coursework in Sanskrit, and reading proficiency in either French or German.

Examinations

The preliminary examination has two parts.  The first covers the general history, sources, and themes of Hindu Religions of South Asia.  The second covers the broad area and themes within which the student's dissertation research will take place. 

Segement I

This segement is a Breadth Examination on the general history, sources, and themes of the Hindu Religions of South Asia.  It will consist of two three-hour written exams, one on Ancient India (from Vedic times to roughly 500 CE) and one on the medieval period (500 CE to 1500).  This exam must be passed no later than the end of the sixth semester of residence.  The reading lists for these exams will be set by the professors of ASART and MEMSART respectively.

Segement II

This segement is a Special Area Examination over the broad area and theme within which the student's dissertation research will take place.  The focus, limits, and reading list for this examination will be designed through consultation between the student and his or her advisor.  This exam will be a single four hour written exam taken no later than the end of the sixth semester of residence.

Core Faculty

East Asia

  • Harold Roth, Professor of Religious Studies, Director of the Contemplative Studies Initiative
  • Janine Tasca A. Sawada, Professor of Religious Studies and East Asian Studies

South Asia

Associated Faculty

East Asia


South Asia