Assistant Professor Pamela Winfield (Religious Studies / Asian Studies) presented a paper on Jan. 28, 2014, at Duke University, the host of this year’s Southeast Conference of the Association of Asian Studies.
Her paper, “What’s Wrong With This Picture? Zen Iconoclasm Reconsidered,” first visually substantiated Zen’s iconoclastic tradition, then qualified it by considering the textual and visual culture associated with Japanese Soto Zen master Dogen (1200-1253). Dogen is the subject (in part) of Winfield’s first book on Icons and Iconoclasm in Japanese Buddhism: Kukai and Dogen on the Art of Enlightenment (Oxford University Press, 2013).
For this conference paper, Winfield concluded that Dōgen’s iconoclasm was not a wholesale one, but rather a highly nuanced and selective one, and that his shifting views on imagery depended on circumstance, audience, pragmatic institution-building agendas, and his tendency to speak from either the ontological or soteriological perspective.