Upcoming Events

"The Missing Link: Siṁha Bhikṣu and Zongmi's Revisioning of Chan History." with Peter Gregory, Professor Emeritus, Smith College

Thursday, February 28, 2019
6:45pm | Smith Buonanno 206

Peter N. Gregory taught at Smith College from 1999 until 2014. After receiving his doctorate in East Asian languages and civilizations from Harvard University in 1981, he taught in the Program for the Study of Religion at the University of Illinois for 15 years. He has also served as the president and executive director of the Kuroda Institute for the Study of Buddhism and Human Values since 1984, and in that capacity he has directed two publication series with the University of Hawaii Press: "Studies in East Asian Buddhism" and "Classics in East Asian Buddhism."

Gregory's research has focused on medieval Chinese Buddhism, especially the Chan and Huayan traditions during the Tang and Song dynasties, on which he has written or edited seven books, including Tsung-mi and the Sinification of Buddhism (1991). He is currently completing a translation of a ninth-century Chinese Buddhist text on the historical and doctrinal origins of the Chan tradition.

After coming to Smith, Gregory's research and teaching became increasingly concerned with Buddhism in America, on which he produced a film, The Gate of Sweet Nectar: Feeding Hungry Spirits in an American Zen Community (2004), and co-edited a book, Women Practicing Buddhism: American Experiences (Wisdom Publications, 2007).

The 2019 K. Brooke Anderson Lecture: "Call it Grace: Breath, Justice, Love" with Rev. Doctor Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary

Tuesday, March 5, 2019
5:30pm | LIST 110

A highly respected scholar and public intellectual, the Rev. Dr. Serene Jones is the 16th President of the historic Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. The first woman to head the 182-year-old institution, Jones occupies the Johnston Family Chair for Religion and Democracy. She is a Past President of the American Academy of Religion, which annually hosts the world’s largest gathering of scholars of religion. Jones came to Union after seventeen years at Yale University, where she was the Titus Street Professor of Theology at the Divinity School, and Chair of the University’s Program in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. The author of several books including Trauma and Grace, Jones, a popular public speaker, is sought by media to comment on major issues impacting society because of her deep grounding in theology, politics, women’s studies, economics, race studies, history, and ethics.

"Gospel Thrillers: The Bible and Conspiracy in U.S. Popular Culture." a lecture with Andrew S. Jacobs, Mary W. and J. Stanley Johnson Professor of Humanities & Professor of Religious Studies, Scripps College

Tuesday, March 12, 2019
5:30pm | Friedman Hall 208

Since the 1960s, dozens of novels have appeared in the U.S. with a common plot: a newly discovered first-century gospel threatens to challenge everything we thought we knew about Jesus and Christian origins and a determined hero faces off against dangerous enemies (often Vatican assassins or Nazis or both) to discover the truth.  What can these novels tell us about the particular fears and desires surrounding the authority and vulnerability of the Bible in the U.S.?


Buddhist Geoaesthetics Conference
May 3 & 4, 2019 | Nightingale Brown House | 357 Benefit St., Providence

Geoaesthetics, an emerging term of analysis in the environmental humanities, invites consideration of the relationship between human beings and the earth. On May 3-4, Brown University will host a conference entitled “Buddhist Geoaesthetics,” bringing together scholars engaged in the study of the history of Buddhism from diverse disciplinary and regional perspectives.

Recent scholarship on Buddhist cave shrines and sacred mountains has already begun to deploy geological frameworks of analysis, examining such topics as the dynamic relationship between human and geological agency in the organization of ritual environments. The goal of this conference is to expand and critique the terms of these inquiries through a discussion of the earth and its forces across the wider field of Buddhist Studies. 

Conference participants will take up three major themes:

  • How, when, and where has the earth impinged on the historical practices and cultures of Buddhism?
  • How did Buddhists understand what we today would now call ‘the environment’ – how did they think about their earth?
  • In what ways have Buddhists made assertions about time and space that vastly exceed the scope of conventional human experience?

Our goal is not a coherent sense of a unifying Buddhist geoaesthetics, but a collective impression of the many ways in which discrete Buddhist engagements with the earth express distinctive aesthetic visions. By giving voice to the plurality and complexity of these visions, we hope to stimulate new, productive responses to the epistemological challenges of the environmental humanities. 

For more information, please visit:

Religious Studies Spring Party
Wednesday, May 8, 2019 
3:30pm: Film Screenings in RI Hall 108
Dinner to follow in the Department (Shirley Miller House, 59 George Street)

Join the Department for two short film screenings on Religion & Climate Change, followed by dinner!
We will watch two short films created by the documentary journalist Bill Gentile.  Both films take up issues of religion, nature, and culture in the context of contemporary Latin America.  The first film, Coffee, Catholics, and Climate Change (7 minutes), portrays work being done by Catholic Relief Services to support Colombian farmers whose coffee crops are imperiled by climate change.  The second film, Fire and Ice on the Mountain (15 minutes), tells the story of the shifting pilgrimage practices at Huaytapallana, the highest peak in the Peruvian Andes, as the glaciers there melt.  After both films, there will be a short discussion, followed by dinner in the Department, where the conversation will continue!

The Eighth North American Syriac Symposium
Syriac Worlds: Interactions, Exchanges, Contributions
June 16-19, 2019 | Brown University, Providence, RI

The Eighth North American Syriac Symposium will convene at Brown University on June 16-19, 2019.  Held every four years since 1991, the North American Syriac Symposium brings together scholars and students for exchange and discussion on a wide variety of topics related to the language, literature, and cultural history of Syriac Christianity, extending chronologically from the first centuries CE to the present day and geographically from Syriac Christianity's homeland in the Middle East to South India, China, and the worldwide diaspora.  For more information, click here: