The Graduate Theological Union’s faculty welcomes Dr. Dessislava Vendova as its inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow in East Asian Art and Religion. This two-year appointment, which includes teaching, exhibition curation, and conference planning, is a joint project of the GTU’s Center for the Arts & Religion (CARe) and the Asia Project.
“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome a scholar of Dessi’s calibre to the GTU,” said CARe Director Dr. Elizabeth Peña. “The interdisciplinary nature of her work makes her a wonderful fit for our community, and her area of expertise helps us provide a more complete curriculum for the arts and religion at the GTU, opening up new avenues of study and research for current and future doctoral students.”
Dr. Vendova comes to the GTU from Columbia University, where she earned PhD, MPhil, and MA degrees in Religion (Buddhism), with a specialization in early Indian and premodern Chinese Buddhism and art. Before her doctoral studies at Columbia University, Dr. Vendova spent eleven years studying and living in China and Japan, earning a BA in Chinese Language and MA in Classical Chinese Literature from Peking University, focusing on pre-Tang and Tang dynasty literature, religion and culture. She has also participated in wide-ranging field research and language study in India.
Her next project, “Trees in the Life of the Buddha,” will explore both textual and visual material related to religious practice connected with tree worship, the presence of trees, tree shrines, tree spirits, and other tree deities in both early Buddhist texts and art.
Dr. Devin Zuber, Chair of the Department of Historical and Cultural Studies in Religion, noted that Dr. Vendova’s research resonates deeply with GTU faculty interests in interdisciplinary and interreligiosity. “I am particularly delighted to have Dessi’s expertise join our environmental humanities initiatives around sustainability. Faculty across the GTU are currently collaborating on courses and colloquia related to the agency of plants and spiritual experiences, and I am so excited to have Dessi’s work on sacred trees in Buddhism add to these initiatives.”
Dr. Vendova will teach her first GTU course, “The Genesis of Buddhist Art,” in Fall 2020.