In an intellectual climate in which we are increasingly called upon to question the boundaries between disciplines, Buddhist Studies and Silk Road Studies present themselves as inherently interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary fields. Buddhist Studies embraces philology, history, religious studies, anthropology, art history, and philosophy; Silk Road Studies involves nearly all of these disciplines, as well as international trade and macroeconomics, environmental history, material cultural studies, and demography. The Silk Road is by definition transregional, and emphasizes networks and processes of technological and cultural transmission. Buddhism, too, besides being one of the central “products” that was “traded” along the Silk Road, often tells a complex tale of assimilation, appropriation, and transformation in dialogue with those traditions it has encountered across Asia and, increasingly, in the West. Bringing these two multidisciplinary fields to bear on one another, the Buddhist and Silk Road Studies Initiative is devoted to exploring the dynamics of transmission and adaptation that have shaped and continue to shape our world.
Buddhist and Silk Road Studies are gaining momentum at Georgetown through the activities of core faculty and students. In 2014–2015, Profs. Millward and Wang jointly organized the seminar “Critical Silk Road Studies” with a John E. Sawyer Seminar grant from the Mellon Foundation. Like the first phase of the present initiative, this supported postdocs, lectures, and workshops. In February 2018 Prof. Dotson organized the DC Buddhist Studies Colloquium, bringing together faculty and graduate students (including five from Georgetown) from DC-area universities for a study day at Georgetown. It is our hope to build on these successes to expand Buddhist and Silk Road Studies at Georgetown.