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Rafal K. Stepien is a scholar of religion, philosophy, and literature. His research is inter-disciplinary, cross-regional, and poly-glottic, ranging among Buddhist and Islamic texts composed in Sanskrit, Chinese, Arabic, and Persian. He is a primarily a specialist of Indian and Chinese Buddhist philosophy and literature, but cultivates a complementary interest in Arabic- and Persian-language Islamic philosophical and literary texts.
At Nanyang Technological University, Rafal is Assistant Professor in Comparative Religion within the Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies Programme (SRP) at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS). Previously, he was the inaugural Cihui Foundation Faculty Fellow in Chinese Buddhism at Columbia University, the inaugural Berggruen Research Fellow in Indian Philosophy at the University of Oxford, a Humboldt Research Fellow in Buddhist Studies at the Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies at Heidelberg University, and Assistant Professor of Asian Religions at Hampshire College.
Rafal holds a BA with double major in English and Philosophy from the University of Western Australia; a BA and MA in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford, an MPhil in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Cambridge, and an MA, MPhil, and PhD in East Asian Languages and Cultures (Religion) from Columbia University. He has also undertaken supplementary studies and research as an Exchange Scholar in the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University, as a Visiting Scholar in the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme at the University of Cambridge, as a Visiting Researcher in the Centre of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong, and at Bologna, Damascus, Tehran, Esfehan, Peking, and Fo Guang Universities, among others.
Areas of Expertise
- Indian and Chinese Buddhist Philosophy and Literature
- Arabic and Persian Islamic Philosophy and Literature
- South and East Asian Religions
- Comparative Religion and Philosophy of Religion
China Area Review Editor, H-Buddhism, 2017 – Present.
International electronic network specifically for advanced academic specialists.
External Peer-Reviewer: Religion & Literature (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame); Sophia: International Journal of Philosophy and Traditions (Dordrecht: Springer).
Research fellowships and awards include the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies Postdoctoral Scholarship at Stanford University (declined), Dissertation Fellowship in Chinese Studies from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, Marleigh Grayer Ryan Graduate Writing Prize from the Association for Asian Studies, Graduate Research Fellowship from the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life at Columbia University, Graduate Research Fellowship from the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies, Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities for Dissertation Research in Original Sources from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), Weatherhead Fellowship from the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University, Soudavar Memorial Research Scholarship in Persian Studies from the University of Cambridge, and S. A. Grave Prize in Philosophy from the University of Western Australia.
Invited lectures include at the Interdisciplinary Research Seminar in the Study of Religions, Wolfson College President’s Seminar, Substance and Essence in Indian Philosophy Symposium, Being, Substance, and Essence in Indian Philosophy: The Heart of the Matter Conference, and Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, all at the University of Oxford; Religious Studies Seminar, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge; Comparative Religion & Theology Lecture Series, Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University; Five College Buddhist Studies Faculty Seminar, Smith College; Network Meeting of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Universität Bonn; Department of Asian Studies, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität in Munich; College of Buddhist Studies, Fo Guang University; and Annual Conference of the Association for Asian Studies.
Conference presentations include at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion; Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association, Harvard University; Annual Conference of the Modern Language Association (South Central Division); Annual Meeting of the American Philosophical Association (Central Division) & International Society for Buddhist Philosophy; Congress of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, University of Toronto; Annual Conference of the Australasian Association of Buddhist Studies, University of Western Sydney; International Workshop on Madhyamaka Studies, International College for Postgraduate Buddhist Studies, Tokyo; International Conference of the International Society of East Asian Philosophy, Meiji University, Tokyo; World Congress on Logic and Religion, Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw; Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions, University of Oxford; International Convention of Asia Scholars, Leiden University; New York Conference on Asian Studies, State University of New York at Binghamton; International Conference of Iranian Studies, University of Warsaw; and Middle East History and Theory Conference, University of Chicago.
Conference service includes as organizer and chair of panel on ‘Literary Forms of Argument in Chinese Buddhist Philosophy’, organizer of and respondent at panel on ‘Paradox in Buddhist Philosophy’, and chair of panel on ‘Narrative and Philosophy in Buddhism’, all at Annual Meetings of the American Academy of Religion; organizer and chair of three-panel seminar on ‘Buddhist Literature as Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy as Literature’ at the Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association, Harvard University; convenor and chair of panel on ‘Ontology, Epistemology, Language: East Asian Madhyamaka Perspectives’ at the International Conference of the International Society of East Asian Philosophy, Meiji University, Tokyo; and convenor and chair of panel on ‘Contesting Philosophy: Asian Arguments’ at the International Convention of Asia Scholars, Leiden University.
Academic affiliations past and present include the American Academy of Religion, American Comparative Literature Association, American Philosophical Association, Association for Asian Studies, Australasian Association of Buddhist Studies, British Association for the Study of Religions, British Institute of Persian Studies, European Association of Chinese Studies, European Association for the Study of Religions, International Association for the History of Religions, International Association of Buddhist Studies, International Society for Chinese Philosophy, Modern Language Association of America, Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, and UK Association for Buddhist Studies.
Interviews for the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies Newsletter (https://tinyurl.com/yxsymmw8), Woodenfish Foundation (http://goo.gl/OiR6bQ), Hampshire College Communications Department (https://goo.gl/8DmQFK), Dharma Drum Mountain (in Chinese), and Merit Times 人間福報 (in Chinese) (http://goo.gl/4opXwu).
Other professional experience includes as Persian ~ English Interpreter in Afghanistan with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), September 2001 – May 2004. Responsibilities included Interpreting among ICRC delegates, political detainees, and civil/military authorities; composing and translating official documents and internal reports; organizing and undertaking detention visits and dissemination sessions of international humanitarian law; liaising and co-ordinating activities with other humanitarian agencies.
Many of Rafal Stepien’s publications may be downloaded at his personal website: https://rafalstepien.academia.edu
- “Abandoning All Views: A Buddhist Critique of Belief” in The Journal of Religion, Vol. 99, No. 4. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019
- “Buddhist Philosophy? Arguments From Somewhere” in APA Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2019
- “Buddhist Philosophy Today: Theories and Forms” in APA Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2019
- “The Original Mind is the Literary Mind, the Original Body Carves Dragons.” in Journal of Buddhist Philosophy, No. 4. Albany: State University of New York Press, Summer (forthcoming), 2019
- “Review Article of: Westerhoff, Jan. The Golden Age of Indian Buddhist Philosophy. The Oxford History of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.” in Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, Vol. 16. Oxford: Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, 2019
- “Buddhist Philosophy Worldwide: Perspectives and Programmes” in APA Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies. Newark: The American Philosophical Association., Vol. 18, No. 2, 2019
- “Do Good Philosophers Argue? A Buddhist Approach to Philosophy and Philosophy Prizes. Newark: The American Philosophical Association.” in APA Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2018
- “Book Review of: Shi Huifeng. Old School Emptiness: Hermeneutics, Criticism and Tradition in the Narrative of Śūnyatā. Kaohsiung: Institute of Humanistic Buddhism, 2016.” in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol. 81, No. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018
- “Orienting Reason: A Religious Critique of Philosophizing Nāgārjuna.” in Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 86, No. 4. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018
Edited Books / Special Issues
- Buddhist Literature as Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy as Literature. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2020
- Buddhist Philosophy Today: Forms and Theories. Newark: The American Philosophical Association (APA Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies, Vol. 19, No. 1, Fall, Guest Edited Special Issue), 2019
- Buddhist Philosophy Worldwide: Perspectives and Programmes. Newark: The American Philosophical Association (APA Newsletter on Asian and Asian-American Philosophers and Philosophies, Vol. 18, No. 2, Spring, Guest Edited Special Issue), 2019
Chapters in Edited Books
- “Philosophy, Literature, Religion: Buddhism as Transdisciplinary Intervention” in Stepien, Rafal K, Buddhist Literature as Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy as Literature. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2020, (forthcoming)
- “Rūmī, Balkhī, Mevlevī: The Ambiguities of Identity in the Poetry of Jālāl al-Dīn Muḥammad (1207-1272 CE)” in Michałak, Mirosław and Zaborowska, Magdalena , In Quest of Identity: Studies on the Persianate World. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Akademnickie Dialog, 2015, 177-192
- “The Mystic Poetry of ʿAṭṭār and the Conference of the Birds” in Scollay, Susan , Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond. Oxford: University of Oxford, in association with the State Library of Victoria, 2012. USA Edition: University of Chicago Press, 2013, 89-93
RSIS Modules Taught
Last updated on 12/10/2020