Asian Religions

The University of Pennsylvania has a long tradition of scholarship on Asian Religions. The Religious Studies Graduate Group has particular strengths in the study of Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam, and Shintō. Graduate students can create cross-disciplinary plans of study with faculty in Anthropology, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, HistoryHistory and Sociology of Science, History of Art, Music, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and South Asia Studies.

Daud Ali (SAST)

Christopher Atwood (EALC)

Andrew Carruthers (ANTH)

Frank Chance (EALC)

Linda Chance (EALC)

Hsiao-wen Cheng (EALC)

Julie Nelson Davis (ARTH)

Paul Goldin (EALC)

Victor Mair (EALC)

Projit Mukharji (HSOC)

Deven Patel (SAST)

Ramya Sreenivasin (SAST)

Jim Sykes (MUSI)

Joyce White (ANTH)

Faculty in this field emphasize primary source research in Asian languages and the study of visual and material culture; narrative and poetry; political and legal history; and childhood, gender, and sexuality. Professors Elias, McDaniel, Robb, and Thomas have all published on the visual and material culture of religious traditions in South, Southeast, and East Asia, investigating the religious qualities of calligraphy, trucks, toys, theme parks, and the gendered body. Manuscript studies are also central. Professor McDaniel specializes in classical Buddhist manuscripts, for example, and Professor Robb studies modern printing practices such as lithography. Professors also approach the category of “Asian religions” critically. For example, Professor Thomas’s graduate course “Asian Religions in the Global Imagination” traces the intertwined imperialist origins of area studies and religious studies and their North American legacies.

Area studies centers on campus are hubs for the study of Asian religions: the Center for East Asian Studies, the Center for the Study of Contemporary China, the Center for the Advanced Study of India and Perry World House. The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology also hosts Asian religions collections.

Perhaps Penn’s greatest strength in the Asian Religions field is language instruction. The Penn Language Center has instructors and courses in dozens of languages, including: Sanskrit, Hindi/Urdu, Pali, Tamil, Telegu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and Pashto.