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Eric Huntington (Stanford University), "Aesthetics of Place: Buddhist Art and its Contexts"
Buddhist artworks serve as focal points of religious space and place at many different scales—atop small altars, in the sanctums of shrines, across the landscapes of nations and empires, and at the destinations of continent-spanning pilgrimages. Scholars have recourse to various kinds of evidence at each level, such as ritual manuals and travelogues, but the artistic record itself also provides unique insights into issues of representation and spatiality in all of these contexts. From second-century Amaravati to twelfth-century Ladakh, sixteenth-century Nepal, and nineteenth-century Mongolia, depictions of artworks, buildings, and landscapes reveal changing conceptions of the places of art at personal, architectural, and environmental scales. These aesthetic objects serve diverse narrative, ritual, and social purposes in these different domains of religiosity, highlighting intimate connections between Buddhist visual culture and the geography of human experience.
Eric Huntington is Postdoctoral Fellow in Religious Studies at Stanford University. He studies the relationships between visual art, ritual, and philosophy in the Buddhist traditions of Tibet, Nepal, and India. His book, Creating the Universe: Depictions of the Cosmos in Himalayan Buddhism (University of Washington Press, 2019), examines depictions of the cosmos, revealing ways in which cosmological thinking has been an underappreciated foundation for many aspects of religious life. Huntington also works on other topics of religion and material culture, including the role of illustration in Buddhist manuscripts and the nature of embodiment in consecrated images. Prior to joining the Stanford community, he served as a Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University and received a PhD from the University of Chicago.