Ryan Overbey (Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow, 2013-15)
Ryan Overbey studies the intellectual and ritual history of Buddhism, with particular focus on early medieval Buddhist spells and ritual manuals. He studied at Brown University (AB in Classics & Sanskrit and Religious Studies, 2001) and at Harvard University (PhD in the Study of Religion, 2010). He worked as an academic researcher for Prof. Dr. Lothar Ledderose’s project on Stone Sūtras at the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, and has also served as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross. His dissertation explored the ideological and ritual construction of the “preacher of the dharma” (dharmabhāṇaka) in the Great Lamp of the Dharma Dhāraṇī Scripture, a massive text extant only in a single sixth-century Chinese translation. In addition to illuminating many details of Buddhist rhetoric and homiletics, the Great Lamp shows how seemingly arcane Buddhist theories of ritual and spellcraft could be brought down to earth and made relevant for the practical concerns of building Buddhist preachers and their communities. During his time at Berkeley, Ryan will work on a monographic study of Buddhist preachers in the early medieval period, drawing on more data about Buddhist pedagogy from Chinese imperial histories and Buddhist hagiography, as well as from documents about preachers found in the Dunhuang archives. Ryan will also pursue research on Buddhist spells and ritual manuals of the early centuries CE, such as the Great Peahen Queen of Spells and the Consecration Sūtra.
Past Postdoctoral Fellows
Stefan Baums (Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow, 2010-11)
Stefan Baums was a Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley during the 2010-11 academic year and a Group in Buddhist Studies Visiting Professor during the 2011-12 academic year. He studied Indology, Tibetology and Linguistics at the Georg‐August‐Universität Göttingen; Sanskrit, Nepali and Buddhist Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; and South Asian and Buddhist Studies at the University of Washington. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 2009 for the edition and study of a first‐century Gāndhārī birch‐bark manuscript containing a commentary on a selection of early Buddhist verses. His research interests include Buddhist philology and epigraphy, the beginnings of written Buddhist literature, the interaction of written and oral modes of text transmission, the development of Buddhist hermeneutics, and the description of Gāndhārī language and literature. His current work focuses on the decipherment of two additional Gāndhārī verse commentaries, and on a comprehensive study of the historical background and exegetical principles of the group of verse commentaries and the related Gāndhārī Sangītisūtra commentary. He is the editor (with Andrew Glass) of the Dictionary of Gāndhārī.
Benjamin Bogin (Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, 2005-07)
Benjamin Bogin was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Berkeley for the 2005-2007 academic years. He received his B.A. (Intercultural Studies) from Simon's Rock College of Bard and his M.A. and Ph.D. (Buddhist Studies) from the University of Michigan. His primary interests are Tibetan Buddhist literature and history and his doctoral dissertation consists of a critical edition, translation, and study of the autobiography of the seventeenth-century Tibetan lama, Yolmo Tenzin Norbu. He is presently engaged in research on the artistic, literary, and ritual traditions surrounding the Tibetan Buddhist pure land known as the Glorious Copper-Colored Mountain.
Natasha Heller (Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, 2006-08)
Natasha Heller is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, 2006-08. She specializes in the intellectual and religious history of China, with a particular focus on the intersection of Buddhism and literati culture. She received her Ph.D. (November 2005) from the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, with a dissertation on the Chan monk Zhongfeng Mingben (1263-1323) and his literati followers. Other research interests include religion and the state, material culture, and concepts of law and justice in imperial China.
Stefan Larsson (Swedish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, 2010-12)
Stefan Larsson received his Ph.D. in History of Religions from Stockholm University 2009. His doctoral dissertation is a detailed study of the life stories of the “mad” Tibetan yogin Tsangnyon Heruka (1452-1507). While working on his dissertation he was awarded a fellowship from the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT). The fellowship enabled him to spend the spring semester 2007 as a visiting scholar at the University of Virginia. His research focuses upon the non-monastic and practice-oriented forms of Tibetan Buddhism. Moreover, he is interested in Buddhist biographies and songs. As a postdoctoral fellow he plans to investigate texts and aspects of Tsangnyon’s life that he did not study in his dissertation. Among other things, he aims at investigating Tsangnyon’s songs, the form of Buddhism he practiced, and the network of disciples and patrons around him.
Jann Ronis (Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow, 2011-13)
Jann Ronis studied religion, Tibetan studies, Sinology, and the Tibetan and Chinese languages at the University of Virginia. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in 2009 for a dissertation about developments in the monasteries of eastern Tibet, along the border between Tibet and China, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His dissertation focused on innovations in scholastics, liturgical practices, and administration spearheaded by the lamas of Katok Monastery and their widespread adoption in the region. The resulting network of monasteries represented the only significant alternative in Tibet to the model of monasticism prevalent in central Tibet and was the site of tremendous literary and artistic production. His research interests include the social histories of visionary cults, scholastic traditions, monastic reform movements, and sectarian conflicts; the philosophical and contemplative traditions of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism; and Sino-Tibetan cultural relations. During his year at Berkeley Jann is researching the twelfth and thirteenth century formation of an important ritual tradition in Tibetan Buddhism the Kagye (bka' brgyad), or Eight Dispensations in an effort to better understand the domestication of Buddhism in Tibet. The Kagye is a compendium of eight heterogeneous deity cults including deities of Indic and Tibetan origins, and supramundane and mundane statuses and Jann is exploring the innovations in narrative and ritual made by the Tibetan creators of this uniquely Tibetan pantheon.
Jessica Starling (Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow, 2012-2013)
Jessica Starling was the Shinjo Ito Postdoctoral Fellow in Japanese Buddhism for 2012-2013. She completed her PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia in 2012, after conducting research as a visiting scholar at Otani University in Kyoto from 2009-2011. Her dissertation concerned the history and contemporary experiences of temple wives, known as bomori, in the Jodo Shinshu or True Pure Land School of Buddhism in Japan. Forthcoming articles include a study of prescriptive accounts of temple wives from the Meiji through the prewar period, and an in-depth study of sermons for temple wives from the Edo period. Jessica is beginning work on a book about contemporary priests' wives in the Shinshu, and is interested in broader themes of women and gender in Pure Land Buddhism as well as the activities of Buddhist laywomen's associations, especially in the modern and early modern periods.