Recently Translated Book by CHPA Faculty Member Illuminates Pivotal Role of Buddhism in Sri Lankan Society
Dr. Stephen Berkwitz (REL), associate professor of Religious Studies at Missouri State University recently published a book entitled, “The History of the Buddha’s Relic Shrine: A Translation of the Sinhala Thupavasma.” Dr. Berwitz’s work is a 300-page translation from a 13th century Sri Lankan text. “With the guidance of a professor of linguistics in Sri Lanka, I went page by page, translating every single word,” Berkwitz said. “It took about a year and a half to translate, and it’s a very laborious process because there is no Sinhala/English dictionary available for this ancient form.”
The text Berkwitz translated is unique because it is both literary and historical. The “Sinhala Thupavasma” was originally composed by Parakama Pandita in the 13th century and is an important example of a Buddhist chronicle. It is among works that inform public discussion and debate over the place of Buddhism in the Sri Lankan nation state and the role of Buddhist monks in contemporary politics.
The primary focus of Berkwitz’s book, published by Oxford University Press, centers on the description of how a Sri Lankan relic shrine – Thupa – was built in the second century B.C. to enshrine parts of the Buddha’s bodily relics (believed to be a bushel of his cremated bones). The book also contains a descriptive account of how Buddhism spread outside of India.
Berkwitz has been studying Buddhism for more than a decade. In 2005-06, he received a Fulbright U.S. Senior Scholar Award, which allowed him to travel to Sri Lanka for seven months to conduct research on early colonial-era Buddhist poetry – particularly literature written in the Sinhala language – and to lecture at the University of Colombo regarding the status of Buddhism in the United States.
Reforming Early Modern European Concepts of Death and Dying
Dr. Austra Reinis (REL), assistant professor of Religious Studies at Missouri State University, in her recently-published book, "Reforming the Art of Dying: The ars moriendi in the German Reformation (1519-1528)," examined how Luther instigated a radical transformation in the public's attitudes towards death and dying. According to Dr. Reinis, during the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther and his followers strove to restructure all aspects of Christian life - and the end of life was no exception.
In the late 1990s, Reinis was searching for a dissertation topic when an advisor suggested she take a deeper look into the topic of mortality. "I discovered there were such things as handbooks teaching people how to die in the Middle Ages, and I wondered if there were handbooks teaching people how to die in the Reformation," said Reinis.
Indeed, such Protestant handbooks existed, and Reinis' book focuses on the earliest of them, beginning with Luther's 1519 "Sermon on Preparing to Die" and ending with Jakob Otter's 1528 "Christlich leben und sterben." [A Christian Life and Death]. The early Protestants, Reinis discovered, proposed a much gentler view of God and the afterlife than their medieval Catholic counterparts.
Reinis said the book will appeal not only to academics, but also to physicians, nurses, hospice workers and others who deal with death and dying in their profession. "I think the book is accessible to any college-educated reader, and the topic, obviously, is of interest to any human being."
Political Science Professor's Newest Book Reveals Insight into Taiwan's Approach to Foreign Policy
Dr. Dennis Hickey (PLS), professor of Political Science, recently published a new book entitled, “Foreign Policy Making in Taiwan: From Principle to Pragmatism,” published by Routledge Press, which thoroughly examines Taiwan’s approach to foreign policy by focusing on several considerations that shape the island's external relations: the international system, governmental structure, societal forces and individual factors.
“A possible war between China and Taiwan remains a major flashpoint in East Asia,” Hickey said. “Some claim it is a greater threat to peace and stability than the stand-off on the Korean peninsula. As some of Taiwan’s foreign policy initiatives (for example, the drive to return to the United Nations) have put the island on a collision course with China, it makes sense for us to understand why the government in Taipei is doing these things.”
During numerous visits to the island over the past several years, Hickey met with Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Mark Chen and former President Lee Teng-hui, as well as academics, government officials, business and opinion leaders.
Hickey’s research and teaching interests include international relations, Asian politics, and foreign policy. He has published approximately 40 scholarly articles and book chapters. In addition to this book, he has also authored three others – all of them addressing issues involving Taiwan and China.
Two Missouri State Professors publish revealing series of Essays on Food and Utopia in America
Dr. Martha L. Finch (REL), an assistant professor of religious studies, co-edited and contributed with Dr. Etta M. Madden (ENG) to a new volume entitled “Eating in Eden: Food and American Utopias, published in by University of Nebraska Press (October 2006). As the editors argue in their comprehensive introduction, perennially viewed as both a utopian land of abundant resources and a fallen nation of consummate consumers, North America has provided a fertile setting for the development of distinctive foodways reflecting the diverse visions of life in the United States.
As the contributors to this volume argue in their essays, immigrants, from colonial English Puritans and Spanish Catholics to mid-twentieth-century European Jews and contemporary Indian Hindus, have generated innovative foodways in creating “new world” religious and ethnic identities. The Shakers, the Oneida Perfectionists, and the Amana Colony, as well as 1970s counter-cultural groups, developed food practices that distinguished communal members from outsiders, but they also marketed their food to nonmembers through festivals, restaurants, and cookbooks. Other groups—from elite male dining clubs in Revolutionary America and female college students in the late 1800s, to members of food co-ops; vegetarian Jews and Buddhists; and “foodies” who watched TV cooking shows—have used food strategically to promote their ideals of gender, social class, nonviolence, environmentalism, or taste in the hope of transforming national or global society.
This theoretically informed, interdisciplinary collection of thirteen essays broadens familiar definitions of utopianism and community to explore the ways Americans have produced, consumed, avoided, and marketed food and food-related products and meanings to further their visionary ideals.
Missouri State Anthropology Professor Publishes Course Materials and Laboratory Manuals used in Physical Anthropology Courses Internationally
Dr. Suzanne Walker, an associate Professor of Anthropology at Missouri State, recently published one of the only existing Laboratory manuals and Instructor's resource books for the teaching of Physical Anthropology. Through examples and hands-on exercises, this laboratory manual offers a basic, yet thorough, background in the main areas of an introductory physical anthropology lab course: genetics, evolutionary forces, human osteology, forensic anthropology, comparative/functional skeletal anatomy, primate behavior, and paleoanthropology. The book has also been used as a text for an introductory laboratory course in physical or biological anthropology. It has also been adopted as a supplementary text or workbook for a lecture class, particularly in courses that have an absence of a laboratory offering.
Dr. Walker has published primarily on the locomotor behavior, ecology, and evolution of New World monkeys, but also has research interests in forensic anthropology and medical anthropology. Currently, she is conducting a study of the health and medical needs of Hispanic immigrants in Southwest Missouri