It is a unique structure in Europe and perhaps even in the world. Placed on the baptismal font in September 2016, the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies on Buddhism was co-founded by six researchers who are members of three prestigious establishments: Inalco, the Collège de France and the École Pratique des Hautes Études (read our box below). It was inaugurated in March 2017 in Paris.
This center, explains a press release from Inalco, has the mission of working to meet the scientific challenges linked to religious changes and disciplinary reconfigurations, while preserving and promoting the French heritage of two centuries of Buddhist studies.
“The idea was to bring together teachers and researchers working in France on Buddhism and find funding to promote studies on these subjects. This, in a context in which the funds tend to benefit, most often, the Anglo-Saxon world. We wanted to create a center marked with a Buddhist label so that it could be quickly identified by our partners", explains J.I. Zhe, the director of this structure.
The CEIB, a federal research structure co-hosted by three establishments, has a scientific council and an office made up of French specialists in Buddhism who are either researchers or university teachers.
Encourage young researchers
CEIB's objectives? The first is to strengthen and enhance French research on Buddhism by promoting the working environment for young researchers working in this discipline. The latter, in fact, often struggle to find a job after obtaining their thesis in social sciences.
It also involves supporting doctoral, thesis and master's students. “Since the creation of the CEIB, continues JI Zhe, we have distributed scholarships at all levels of research and studies, postdoctoral scholarships, and scholarships intended for doctoral or master’s students.” These are financed by foundations in the Chinese world which work in liaison with major universities in the United States (Columbia, Harvard and Berkeley in particular), in Canada, and in Europe, in Belgium, in Ghent, and in France, in Paris (Inalco). This funding also comes from Taiwan and Hong Kong.
“We take care to approach Buddhism in all its aspects, to evoke all eras and all cultural eras, from Asia to Europe. » J.I. Zhe
The CEIB wanted to emphasize interdisciplinarity because it is essential, in its view, to understand the evolution of Buddhism in the context of globalization, to appeal to a wide spectrum of disciplines: anthropology, history, philosophy, philology, political science, sociology. "We want to create a synergy between teachers and researchers from different disciplinary fields so as to better understand the spiritual, social and political issues", continues JI Zhe.
The CEIB seeks to strengthen inter-university collaborations and to perpetuate an international network of researchers. This objective has resulted in particular, since 2017, in the invitation of guest speakers and researchers from Europe, North America and Asia.
Ask for the program
The programs are organized around two highlights: the spring of the CEIB, in February-March, and the start of the CEIB, in September-October.
The offer is diversified: conferences, symposiums, study days, exhibitions. Some of these programs are aimed more specifically at teachers and researchers. Others are open to students or the general public. The spring of the CEIB begins with a major annual opening conference called "Lin Li-kouang distinguished lecture for Buddhist studies", in memory of Lin Li-kouang, a linguist and Buddhist of Chinese origin, former teacher of the O' Languages of 1933 to 1945.Each year, a foreign researcher enjoying international renown is invited to give a lecture and present the latest research on Buddhism. Speakers in recent years have included Professor Stephen F. Teiser of Princeton University (USA), Richard Gombrich, director of the Oxford Center for Buddhist Studies (United Kingdom), or even Anne M. Blackburn, professor of Southeast Asian studies and Buddhist studies at Cornell University in Ithaca (United States) .
In the spring, the CEIB also organizes a major international symposium, accompanied by round tables, study days and conferences. Examples ? In 2020, the program will open with an international colloquium on Buddhism Chan (Zen) in East Asia in medieval times (February 27-29, Collège de France). In autumn, an international symposium will focus on the inner life of Buddhists in China (October 1-2, Inalco), followed by a study day on the anthropology of conversion in a Buddhist environment (Campus Condorcet). "We take care to approach Buddhism in all its aspects, to evoke all periods and all cultural eras, from Asia to Europe", insists JI Zhe by way of conclusion.