David Monteleone: Summer in Yokohama
As a Ph.D. student studying Chinese Buddhism in the Religion Department at Columbia University, language study is critical to my dissertation research. Intensive instruction in Mandarin Chinese, Classical Chinese, and Japanese has been essential not only in understanding the ancient textual heritage of Buddhism in East Asia, but also in making available the vast corpus of modern scholarship in the field. Fluency in modern East Asian languages will prove crucial to conducting comprehensive and insightful field work as well as cooperative research with Asian scholars in related fields. The Summer Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Award allowed me to continue developing these important language skills.
My summer at The Inter‐University Center for Japanese Language Studies in Yokohama constituted a fundamental step in the completion of my degree. The immersion in Japanese culture afforded by this experience went a long way toward fortifying my understanding of the language. Our time outside the classroom was indispensable. In addition to class trips to a Kabuki Theater, the Tōkyō National Museum, and Engaku-ji in Kamakura, I made sure to find time to venture further afield to visit Kyōto during Gion Matsuri as well as the temples and shrines of Nikkō. But perhaps the most valuable experiences were the more everyday interactions: going to the grocery store, sitting in a local park, or even cheering for the home team at a Yokohama Baystars baseball game.
While the primary focus of my research is Chinese Buddhism, fluency in Japanese is vital to my graduate work and will continue to be so in my prospective academic career. A great deal of important secondary scholarship in Buddhist studies is written by Japanese scholars. This is particularly true for work done in my area of specialization (Buddhist art in the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Khotan). Reading the work of and collaborating with Japanese scholars working in this field of research is essential to my educational and career goals. A facility with Japanese will help me to conduct future research in collections and archives housed at libraries, museums, and universities throughout Japan. Without the Summer FLAS Award and the continuing generous support of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, I would not have been able to undertake this critical aspect of my graduate research.
For more information on the Summer Foreign Language Area Studies (Summer FLAS) fellowship, please contact Kim Palumbarit at firstname.lastname@example.org.