Lecture: Johan Elverskog, "The Buddha’s Footprint: An Environmental History of Asia"


Location: 1030 Jenkins Nanovic Halls (View on map )

Elverskog 1200

About the Lecture

The Buddha’s Footprint: An Environmental History of Asia

Contrary to popular imaginings the Dharma has not historically been an inherently environmental religion. Rather, early Buddhism was a prosperity theology that succeeded largely on account of its willingness to exploit both people and natural resources on the commodity frontier. As such, by investigating the links between Buddhism and agricultural expansion this talk will explore how Buddhists radically transformed Asia’s environment.

About the Speaker

Johan Elverskog is Dedman Family Distinguished Professor, Chair of Religious Studies, and, by courtesy, Professor of History at Southern Methodist University. He is the author of eight books.

His research falls into five main areas. The first is Sino-Inner Asian history during the Ming-Qing period (1368-1912). Here his books include The Jewel Translucent Sutra: Altan Khan and the Mongols  the Sixteenth Century, The Pearl Rosary: Mongol Historiography in Early 19th Century Ordos, and Our Great Qing: The Mongols, Buddhism and the State in Late Imperial China. A second area is the history of Buddhism among the Turks and Mongols. Here, his books include Uygur Buddhist Literature, the edited volume Biographies of Eminent Mongol Buddhists and The Dharma at the Center of the World: A History of Turkic Buddhism.  

A third focus is inter-Asian cross-cultural exchange and interaction. Here, his books include the co-edited volume Cosmopolitanism in China, 1600-1920 and Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road, which was a Choice Outstanding Academic Title and won the American Academy of Religion’s Award for Excellence in the Historical Study of Religion. 

The fourth focus brings the fruits of scholarship on Inner Asian history to a larger audience, especially to scholars and students in other disciplines. The first of these projects is Sources of Mongolian Tradition, coedited with Christopher P. Atwood, will be published in the Introduction to Asian Civilizations Series of Columbia University Press.
His fifth and most recent focus is an environmental history of Asia, toppling the myth that Buddhism is "green" by examining its practices across Asia as it became a dominant institutional and religious force. This talk will be drawn from his latest book, The Buddha’s Footprint: An Environmental History of Asia, forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press. 

Event Details

4:30 PM: Reception
5:00 - 6:00 PM: Lecture 

Co-sponsored by East Asian Languages and Cultures, Department of History, Sustainability Studies, and Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion.