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Intro and grad school recommendations [May. 1st, 2009|04:24 pm]
Religion Majors



Hello! This month I am receiving my double BA in East Asian Studies and Modern Languages (from studying Chinese and Japanese), and I am interested in pursuing Religious Studies for graduate school. I have been focusing my research for the past two years (including an independent research project and senior thesis) on early medieval Daoism, and I would like to continue to study it in grad school. I am interested in becoming a college professor.

The challenge I'm finding with grad school is in finding programs that offer much in the way of Daoist studies. Many programs seem primarily focused on western religions, and out of those that do offer non-western religions, the focus tends to be on Buddhism or Hinduism with little or no study of Daoism.

I would like a program that is rooted in history. I am also interested in some comparative religious studies (I have done some work on things like influences on Hinduism on Daoism, etc.)

Programs that I've found so far / been suggested to me that I'm considering:
- University of Hawai'i
- Arizona State University

Does anyone have any other ideas for me? (Can be from any country - I enjoy traveling/living abroad.)

Thank you!

[User Picture]From: papermoonriver
2009-05-02 04:54 am (UTC)
I know that you've already found Hawai'i, but I just want to add that I'm heading to Hawai'i for quasi-late-in-life undergraduate schoolin', and I couldn't be more excited. The added bonus is that you are surrounded by Asian culture at the same time as studying it. I think that's your best bet, short of studying in China. Also, you would have a chance to exercise your mad foreign language skills as 25% of the Honolulu population are Japanese and preference is often given to bilingual English/Japanese speakers in the job market.

I'll be moving there August 4th but won't be in school for another year due to out-of-state tuition rates, but feel free to contact me if you want any insider experience in the future!
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[User Picture]From: shimawa_zen
2009-05-05 03:37 am (UTC)
Thank you! I would like to hear more about the insider experience. What will you be studying after you start school there next year?

The bonus of being surrounded by Asian culture is certainly alluring. I considered going there for undergrad, and am obviously still interested in going there.
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[User Picture]From: papermoonriver
2009-05-05 07:00 pm (UTC)
Comparative religion. Thus, the community in which we are speaking. ;)

I'll also be double majoring in Theatre if time allows, but Religion takes precedence.
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[User Picture]From: fractalspackle
2009-05-02 12:20 pm (UTC)
Unless you are independently wealthy, the job placement rates of these prospective graduate schools should be at the top of your list of questions. Academic jobs are getting more and more rare, and many PhDs end up unable to ever get one. Ask each prospective graduate program what their job placement rates are, and how long it is taking their graduates to secure tenure track positions. If they waffle, don't know, or give you an answer that you don't like, then run away as fast as you can!
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[User Picture]From: shimawa_zen
2009-05-05 03:39 am (UTC)
I'm certainly not independently wealthy, so I will keep your advice in mind. I'm afraid that I am aware that academic jobs are becoming harder to come by, but it is still something that I want to strive for.
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[User Picture]From: hkmercredi
2009-05-02 08:11 pm (UTC)
I did my MA work at McMaster in Ontario (East Asian religions). James Benn works on Taoism, along with Chinese Buddhism, and he's great to work with. He'd taught at Arizona before going to McMaster. Some find him intimidating, but if you're up for the work, you'll learn a great deal.

I assume you'd be working with Bokenkamp at Arizona, and I think he'd be excellent to work with. Chun-fang Yu at Columbia does more with Chinese Buddhism, but you really can't study Chinese Buddhism without having an excellent grasp of Taoism. If you look at her book on Guanyin, you should certainly see evidence of that. James Robson at Harvard's East Asian Languages and Civilizations also has some interesting research involving Taoism.

Those are folks I can think of off the top of my head, but they're hardly the only notable people in the field. Taoism is growing in popularity in East Asian scholarship, but so is multidisciplinary research, meaning that just because someone studies Chinese Buddhism does not mean that he or she does not likely have a good Taoist background and could help you work out a good thesis topic. At the same time, you'd need to also have a good background in Chinese Buddhism and Chinese popular religion to be a competitive academic in this field.

I wouldn't tell you not to apply by any means, though. The fact that you already have language skills will make you a very attractive candidate.

I'd suggest you do what I did in looking for grad programs. The American Academy of Religion page has an online survey that they did some years back of all its member universities. Basically, I went there and just chose all of the majors from the drop down list that seemed relevant to what I wanted to study. That then gives you a quick blurb about the school and links to their programs. It's a good way to find a list of universities offering at least the major you might want and then look at the individual professors to see if there is anyone whose interests might intersect with yours. Look at anyone who studies Chinese religions, even if it's not specifically Taoism, as he or she may have an interest in the topic but haven't had a chance to teach on it yet. Also, look at what has been published in the past 10 years on topics related to Taoism. Who are those people and where do they work? And, perhaps more importantly, are other scholars quoting from these works and referring to them in their articles and books?
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From: nonvetrazt
2013-02-17 06:00 am (UTC)
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