Associate Professor and Department Chair, University of Missouri-Columbia

My main research interests are Hinduism and South Asian Buddhism. Trained as a Sanskritist, I enjoy working with original Hindu and Buddhist texts, both in Sanskrit and in other ancient Asian languages, such as Pali, Prakrits, Tibetan, and Tocharian.

In my work on the Upanishads, I have tried to establish a relative chronology for these ancient Sanskrit texts, and I have identified later interpolations within each text. I then use this text-critical analysis as a basis for discussing the historical development of important Hindu concepts present in these texts.

I am also deeply fascinated with ancient tales about robots and mechanical beings, and I am particularly interested in how Hindu and Buddhist robot stories express fundamental beliefs about soul and soullessness. My work is situated at the intersection of the larger debate surrounding self, personhood, and humanity in Hinduism and Buddhism and the emerging field of bioethics in South Asian religions. In contrast to the rich scholarly literature on the philosophical and ethical issues surrounding androids and cyborgs, real and imagined, in Western literature, there is very little written to date about comparable robot tales from Asia. In my current book project, Romancing the Robots: Reflections on Self and Soul in Ancient Indian Literature, I attempt to demonstrate that the ideas expressed in ancient Asian texts are still highly relevant to modern ethical debates.

Experience

  • –present
    Associate Professor and Department Chair, University of Missouri-Columbia