Two Fairfield University professors awarded prestigious NEH and ACLS grants


Two Fairfield University professors, Dr. Ronald M. Davidson, Ph.D., professor of religious studies, and Joy Gordon, Ph.D., professor of philosophy, have been awarded highly competitive and prestigious NEH Fellowships, an honor shared by only 10 universities across the country, including Harvard, NYU, and Emory. Only five research universities were awarded more NEH Fellowships than Fairfield this year.

Image: Joy GordonIn addition to the NEH Fellowship award, Dr. Davidson also received an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellowship grant, one of only 57 scholars selected from 1,136 applicants. The ACLS grant for $53,132, a first for Fairfield, and the NEH grant for $50,400, will support Dr. Davidson's research, leading to a book entitled, "Imperial Buddhas, Tantric Origins."

Dr. Gordon was awarded a $50,400 NEH grant to bring to fruition a book she has spent many years researching: "A Peaceful, Silent, Deadly Remedy: The Ethics of Economic Sanctions." The book, which will have case studies on Iraq and Cuba, will follow another book she just published last fall, "Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions," published by Harvard University Press.

During her fellowship year she will be a senior fellow with the Global Justice Program, MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, Yale University.

Image: Ron DavidsonDr. Davidson is examining Buddhist documents in Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan for a book he is completing on the origins of Buddhist Tantrism in 7th-8th century CE India. The documents, which have not been critically discussed before now, describe the earliest tantric Buddhist system, "the Emperor Arising from the Buddha's Turban." The historical intent of the project is to clarify the emergence of Buddhist Tantrism, which spread throughout Eurasia within a century of its origins. The book builds on Dr. Davidson's previous research and publications on tantric Buddhism, his most recent being "Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture" (Columbia University Press, 2005). 

Trained in Sanskrit and Chinese Buddhist studies at the University of California Berkeley, Dr. Davidson studied and lived with Tibetans for 18 years before and during his graduate career, working for 11 years with Ngor Thartse Khenpo (Hiroshi Sonami). His work leads him often to the Himalayas, India, and Nepal, or to the North Indian plains, to consult with friends and colleagues. There he works in archives and libraries or visits archaeological sites associated with medieval Buddhism.

A member of the International Associations, respectively, for Sanskrit, Tibetan, Buddhist, and Himalayan and Nepal Studies, Dr. Davidson has presented scholarly papers at conferences and seminars in Europe, India, Nepal, and Japan, as well as around the United States. He is also active in the Tantric Studies Group at the American Academy of Religion.

Dr. Gordon's research focuses on the historical progression of economic sanctions, beginning with the concept of a "boycott," proposed by The League of Nations following World War I, and progressing to the moral questions presented by the contemporary use of sanctions. She says that prior to 1990 there were no cases in which economic sanctions devastated the economy of a target state or caused widespread, sustained human damage, and so scholarly literature on economic sanctions paid little attention to ethical issues.

The sanctions on Iraq following that country's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, were unlike any before them, she says, with Iraq initially unable to import food. By mid-1991 a UN envoy described the situation as "near apocalyptic" and for the first time public health experts, international law scholars and theologians questioned the ethical basis of decisions that could harm the civilian population indiscriminately.

In her book, Dr. Gordon plans to address ethical issues that economic sanctions raise, including issues of intent, moral agency, and collective responsibility, and present two case studies on Iraq and Cuba.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on July 29, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 11