Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

5 - Interspecies Cultures: The Representation of Animals in Asian Buddhist Cultural Spheres from the Middle Period to the Contemporary

7/6/2018
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Rudraksha, Lower Ground Floor

The growing volume of animal studies across the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences, or the “animal turn” in interdisciplinary studies and its intersection with the growing concerns of climate change calls for, as scholars like Dipesh Chakrabarty argue, a thinking of cross-species relations in both long and short timescales. Encouraged by this turn, this panel examines how animals were perceived and represented at different historical moments from the middle period to the contemporary time in Asian Buddhist cultural circle, particularly in China and Sri Lanka. It investigates the changing constructions of animals in literary writings and visual representations and their relations with the dynamics of Buddhist culture. It explores how these representations of animals from a non-Western perspective would open up alternative ways to conceptualize interspecies relations.


Songjoo Kim examines Song dynasty writings on animal-human communication, displaying the profound respect that literati had for animal intelligence during this period. As Sobhitha Madurawala shows, elephants have been particularly praised for their intelligence in both Chinese and Sri Lankan traditions. His study makes a comparison of elephant symbolism in both countries. These two studies of classical literature are balanced by two studies of modern and contemporary depictions of animals. Xi Chen examines the remarkable appearance of companion sentient beings in the popular comics of Republican-era artist Feng Zikai. And, finally, Todd Foley shows metaphysical aspects of Mo Yan’s writing through an exploration of the tension between animal representation and Buddhism in two of his novels. 


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Send Email for Songjoo Kim

Sobhitha Madurawala

University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

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Todd Forley

New York University, United States

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