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. 

Deba M Barua
Deba M Barua  |  Abstract
This proposed monograph will examine the processes of the reconfiguration and geographical spread of Buddhism in wider Bengal. It will focus on a set of questions: how did Buddhists in Chittagong dispel the shadow of Hinduism, claim Buddhist identity, and get dispersed in wider Bengal? Addressing these questions, I will argue in this proposed book that Chittagong Buddhists have successfully employed their oral tradition based identity (i.e., Mog/Maga/Magadhi Buddhists) as the descendants of extinct Indian Buddhists in Magadha to emerge as a distinct (non-Hindu) religious community in modern Bengal. I will also illustrate how this revived identity has enabled Chittagong Buddhists to establish translocal connections.

Affiliated Scholar, School of Religion; Ho Centre for Buddhist Studies, University of Toronto  -  Chittagong-Arakan Modern Buddhist Reformation 1757¬—1947: Staging Buddhism in Extended Bengal with Transregional Connections

Halle E. O'Neal
Halle E. O'Neal  |  Abstract
In the epistolary culture of medieval Buddhist Japan, handwritten letters – reused, recycled, and reframed – figured prominently in private mourning rituals. Upon a loved one's death, family gathered the dead’s letters and transcribed scripture atop their surface, transforming missives into palimpsests. This book analyses these recycled letters as the key to uncovering the crucial relationship between handwriting and the very presence of the dead in the paper itself. It develops novel ways for Buddhist Studies to understand forgotten objects in order to bring to light the material performance of grief, the overlooked meanings and mechanics of medieval recycling, and the challenge that calligraphic compositions pose for art historical assumptions about visuality.

Associate Professor, History of Art, University of Edinburgh  -  Writing against Death: Reuse and Recycling in Japanese Buddhist Manuscripts

David M DiValerio
David M DiValerio  |  Abstract
Mountain Dharma is a study of the intellectual culture that has animated the practice of long-term meditative retreat in Tibetan Buddhism. Through the systematic comparison of thirty retreat manuals written between the twelfth century and the twentieth, this project traces what exegetes of the tradition have identified as the persistent challenges that define life in retreat, and the strategies they have articulated for how to overcome them. Of particular interest is how the meditating subject is constructed via these manuals’ varying prescriptions concerning the more mundane facets of the retreat endeavor, including food, the body, the location of the retreat, and relations with other meditators and the laity. Ultimately this book demonstrates the extent to which Buddhist meditation has historically been informed by highly localized cultural practices and conditions.

Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee  -  Mountain Dharma

Lucinda Ramberg
Lucinda Ramberg  |  Abstract
“We Were Always Buddhist” investigates the sexual politics of lived Buddhism through an ethnography of religious conversion in contemporary South India. Converts follow the call of B.R. Ambedkar to become Buddhist in order to exit what he framed as “the hell of Hinduism”. Drawing on 14 months of field research, I elaborate the unfolding of emancipation across time and show that for Ambedkarite Buddhists, emancipation from caste is a project that must be worked out in the past, present, and future. This framework sheds new light on respectability politics in between community uplift and the emancipation of women, illuminates religious conversion as an ongoing process rather than a discrete event, and highlights the epistemological and political particularities of Buddhism in India today.

Associate Professor, Anthropology, Cornell University  -  "We Were Always Buddhist": Dalit Conversion, Sexual Modernity, and the Time of Emancipation

Sherry D. Fowler
Sherry D. Fowler  |  Abstract
This book project will demonstrate the essential but unrecognized role of large Japanese bronze Buddhist bells in the history of religious practice and international relations in Asia and beyond. Since the 7th century, bells in Japan were made of expensive material with impressive technical and design skill for use at Buddhist temples in rituals and commemoration. These bells, along with their Korean counterparts, also played a pivotal role in the history of international maritime movement and global exchange, which reaches far beyond a national narrative. Throughout Japan the abundant illustrations and stories of bells transported across the sea or sunk in bodies of water have common themes of loss, recovery, and international tension, including their removal and repatriation.

Professor, History of Art, University of Kansas  -  Buddhist Bells In and Out of Japan, Over and Under Water

Magdalena Maria Turek
Magdalena Maria Turek  |  Abstract
Based on recent local historiographies, ethnography, and oral histories, this project studies contemporary representations of the historical Tibetan kingdom of Nangchen located in today’s Yushu prefecture, Qinghai province of China. The project asks how today Tibetans in Yushu and in exile re-imagine Nangchen as a Buddhist society. The study examines the content of the local narrative, the process of its re-production, and its significance for global Buddhism. Research examines written, oral, and performative memory practices around Nangchen’s final period (1912-1951) within the framework of postcolonial and diaspora studies. This study will impact the humanities more broadly, as it considers the moral and metaphysical dimensions of global re-visionings of a local collective identity.

Independent Scholar  -  Re-Imagining the Buddhist Kingdom of Nangchen

Bryan D. Lowe
Bryan D. Lowe  |  Abstract
How did Buddhism spread? My proposed project offers one answer through a case study of provincial preaching in ancient Japan (seventh through ninth centuries). Buddhism expanded rapidly at this time; the number of temples grew from 45 in 624 to over 4,000 by 838. To explain this transformation, I use manuscript and archaeological evidence such as preaching notes and inscribed pottery to highlight the role of wayfaring preachers traveling along roads in introducing Buddhism to provincial villages. It is the first monograph in English to document the expansion of Buddhism to the Japanese periphery. It addresses theoretical questions of religious dissemination by advancing a model that emphasizes the need for both mobility along infrastructural networks and skillful messaging by preachers.

Assistant Professor, Department of Religion, Princeton University  -  Mobility and the Message: The Spread of Buddhism in Ancient Japan