Announcing Cross-Cultural Conceptions of the Self: South Asia, Africa, and East Asia

How might investigating conceptualizations of “self” relative to other religious traditions in Africa, South and East Asia enable cross-cultural philosophical analysis? One way is to make scholarship in this area more visible and accessible. “Cross-Cultural Conceptions of the Self” uses 2022 to plan and host an asynchronous online symposium whose outcomes would be made public on the Global-Critical Philosophy of Religion. With generous support from the University of Birmingham (UK), a group of eleven participants are critically examining how to study “self.” The proposal breaks with the orientalist, epistemic problematics of the “East-West” dichotomy through scholarly conversations on “persistence.” Outcomes will be posted on this website in the form of: a) a directory of researchers from around the world, b) critical terms for the critical study of “self” c) an annotated scholarly conversation, d) a key terms video series, and e) a podcast of culminating reflections.

In the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, online tools are essential to support new scholarship in philosophy of religion. “Cross-Cultural Conceptions of the Self” shows how this might work in practice. The project website and its online platforms will promote research by early career scholars from underrepresented regions in African traditional religions, Jainism, Shinto and Confucianism. The project’s anticipated impact is to a) increase the profile of younger scholars working in these areas, b) establish conceptual entry-points to their work, c) make their research more publicly-accessible, and d) demonstrate how cross-cultural philosophy of religion may be practiced.

Conducted in English, the project does share the problematic legacy of the field while also working to proactively address issues of regional visibility and philosophy’s orthodoxies concerning the self and immortality. The design of the project introduces the innovative use of online tools to promote scholarly and public conversations on the philosophy of religion. Where budgetary and visa restrictions often prevented ease of travel for these scholars, the global pandemic now presents an additional barrier to entry. “Cross-Cultural Conceptions of the Self” aims to highlight already underway conversations for English-speaking publics and philosophers of religion among them.

This project was made possible through the support of a grant from John Templeton Foundation, awarded via the Global Philosophy of Religion Project (GPRP). The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of John Templeton Foundation or the GPRP.


NATHAN LOEWEN, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Alabama.

AGNIESZKA ROSTALSKA, Research Associate, Department of Languages and Cultures, South Asia Network Ghent (SANGH), Ghent University.

Participating scholars:

East Asian traditions:

YŪKO ISHIHARA, Associate Professor, College of Global Liberal Arts, Ritsumeikan

University. LOUIS KOMJATHY, Ph.D., Independent Scholar-Educator and Translator.

MAKI SATŌ, Project Associate Professor, East Asian Academy (EAA), University of Tokyo.

African traditions:

AYODEJI OGUNNAIKE, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, Bowdoin College.

OLUDAMINI OGUNNAIKE,Assistant Professor of African Religions, University of Virginia.

HERBERT MOYO, Associate Professor, School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, University of Kwazulu-Natal.

South Asian traditions:

MARIE-HELENE GORISSE, Guest Professor at Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent University.

ANA BAJZELJ, Associate Professor and Shrimad Rajchandra Endowed Chair in Jain Studies, University of California (Riverside).

ANIL MUNDRA, PhD Candidate in Philosophy of Religions program at the University of Chicago Divinity School (expected graduation: 2021).