Monday, August 12, 2013

Bridging cultures

The staff of UVA's Alderman Library showed Bridging Cultures faculty some of the resources of the library and seduced us with tales of the Semester at Sea. We toured Alderman's gorgeous Asian Reading Room, where we were treated to an impromptu storytelling session by Slavic librarian and professional storyteller George Crafts.

Back in the Open Grounds classroom, Edith Clowes explained the theological and (mostly) political division between the Eastern and Western (Orthodox and Catholic) churches, and the characteristics of Orthodox cathedral architecture and iconography. Next, Natasha Miles presented an intro to Buddhist philosophy and a detailed life of the Buddha. We finished the day with Rich Cohen's millennia-spanning lecture on Hinduism and Jainism including their ancient roots and most influential reformers. Most interestingly, he pointed out that "Hinduism" is a label applied largely by non-Hindus to attempt to collect the diverse beliefs of a huge nation into a convenient conceptual packages. Concepts like the Ishtadeva, or personal god, mean that one can expect to see a great diversity of belief and practice from region to region, or even from Hindu to Hindu. 

After Dr. Cohen's lecture, I feel like I'm already semi-fluent in Sanskrit, but I think I'm about to learn how little I know since today's lectures focus on language and linguistics. Once more into the breach!

-          Jason Lira

The above blog is a recount of Reynolds faculty member Jason Lira’s experience at the symposium on Bridging Cultures. Seven Reynolds faculty members joined other participants from representative VCCS institutions in a weeklong, National Endowment for Humanities-sponsored symposium on Bridging Cultures. Hosted by the University of Virginia and led by Project Director Rachel Stauffer, Outreach Coordinator of the Asia Institute and Lecturer in Slavic Languages and Literatures, the Bridging Cultures Symposium provides VCCS faculty with the opportunity to develop their understanding and knowledge of the culture, geography, history, and human development in South Asia, East Asia, Russia and Eurasia, and the Middle East.