Keywords: Cultural Studies, Asian Studies, Culture and History, Culture and Society, Legal Research, Religion and Research Methods
Title: New Buddhist Outlooks from Old Buddhist Sources
Article By: Rebecca Dingle
The Baldy Center supports UB faculty research and conferences through a competitive grant program. Rebecca French’s work at the intersection of Anthropology and Law has been supported by a series of Baldy Center awards. Here we focus on her work on Buddhism and Law.
Multicultural approaches like those taken by University at Buffalo School of Law’s Professor Rebecca Redwood French are vital to understanding law and society on an international level. French’s research concentrations include the anthropology of law, law and religion, and property law and social science. She also sits on the board of editors of the journal Buddhism, Law & Society. Baldy Center research and conference grants have supported her innovative international and multicultural approach over the past several years. As Professor French puts it, multicultural approaches can assist us while we “assess our own very ingrained assumptions and attitudes toward what law is, should be, and should provide for a society.” The research conducted with these approaches in mind may open the door to solutions that seem insurmountable when viewed through current laws and structures.
Professor French organized the Second International Conference on Buddhism and Law, sponsored by the Baldy Center and cosponsored by the Buddhism, Law & Society Journal, the UB Asian Studies Program, and UB Departments of Anthropology, Art, Comparative Literature, History, Political Science, and Sociology, in September 2019. Nineteen scholars from nine countries came to University at Buffalo to share their research on Buddhism and law. Conference participants engaged in discussions focusing on the many legal features of Buddhism, and how law and the state relate to Buddhist actors, institutions, and texts. Their research, all relating to Buddhism, spanned themes such as politics, legal systems, law and constitutionalism in emerging democracies, social policy, religious education, colonialism, and Buddhist legal processes. Professor French wrote that “one the major accomplishments of the conference was to start a conversation about the practical steps we can take to support research and publication in this field and incorporate our work into a pedagogical practice that could reach undergraduate and graduate students, law students, and continuing education for legal professionals.”
“When something doesn’t work in our legal system today, we rarely think about revising some of the basic structure. This is a possibility when looking through the lens of Buddhism and Law.” —Rebecca Redwood French
Professor French continues her work to develop resources for Buddhism and Law, supported in part by a 2020-2021 Baldy Center research grant. She will use this funding to help develop the Buddhist Law Reader, which will be a critical resource for Buddhism and law research and practice. Professor French cites one of the largest hurdles on research into Buddhism and law as being a “lack of accessible materials… that demonstrate the enormous range of the subject matter.” Her proposed Buddhist Law Reader, commissioned by Cambridge University Press, would compile a vast range of available resources in one location, making the world of Buddhist law and its related topics much more accessible. Professor French sees the new reader as critical for developments in law: “When something doesn’t work in our legal system today, we rarely think about revising some of the basic structure. This is a possibility when looking through the lens of Buddhism and Law.”
Rebecca Dingle is a fourth year student in UB’s College of Arts & Sciences, Honors College. She double majors in Linguistics and Asian Studies and plans graduate work after the completion of her B.A. in 2021. Ms. Dingle is particularly interested in barriers to global communication posed by culturally mediated language translation.
Rebecca Redwood French, JD, PhD, is Professor of Law in UB’s School of Law. Dr. French focuses on the Anthropology of Law, Comparative Law, Law and Religion, Property Law and Social Science, Intellectual Property in her research and teaching. She has worked extensively with Tibetans and Indonesians on immigration and cultural issues and has delivered public lectures for Amnesty International, the Tibetan Conference, the International Association of Tibetan Studies, Tibet House as well as in many scholarly forums. Learn more.