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Buddhism and the Formation of Authority in East Asia

International Symposium, IBZ Munich, August 13 to 14, 2014


Addressing the formation and functions of Buddhist authorities within the religious system vis-à-vis authorities outside the system, whether they belong to other religious groups, officialdom, local institutions, or political parties, this symposium is focused on the specific relations between authority and power which shape East Asian systems of rule in pre-modern as well as modern societies. Presentations and discussions will take into account Shintō, Daoist, and Confucian authority formation as well, particularly in cases where close ties to the state required a revision of expert knowledge, reputation, and sectarian distinctions.

If we consider the status of Buddhist authorities in systems of rule as a matter of functions and choices defined by those who--after all is said and done--were in the position to exert legal and military violence, we possibly can better understand the specific selling propositions that justify costly patronage and symbolic pet projects of the elite. Whereas many historical interpretations for example directly refer to emic concepts of ritual efficacy, traditional notions of legitimacy etc. (as if the related Buddhist truth claims were uncontested and held to be generally true), this symposium proposes to take a closer look at the particular conditions that gave rise to the recognition and reputation of religious expertise in functional terms,

  • differentiating the institutional level (polity), the processual level (politics), and the normative level (policy) of Buddhist, Confucian or Shintō authority formation;
  • conceiving political influence as the communication of authority (traditional and charismatic), reputation, and leadership;
  • discussing power as the medium of communication which produces reciprocity, mutual recognition and asymmetrical interdependence;
  • highlighting specific accounts that mimick outside perspectives and aim at the maintenance of institutions outside the religious system of meaning.

Hosted by the Department of Asian Studies and the LMU Japan Centre, the symposium brings together international scholars from various disciplines such as East Asian studies, history of religion, semiotics, political science, and philosophy.

Symposium Program (pdf, 54 kb)

For further information please contact the organizer Prof. Dr. Martin Lehnert (martin.lehnert@lmu.de), LMU Japan Centre.