Sydenham Clark Parsons Professor and Professor of Religion, Buddhist Studies, and South Asian Studies
Contact & Office Hours
Monday, 2:40–4 p.m.
Wednesday, 2:40–4 p.m.
Or by appointment
Pierce Hall 203
Ph.D., University of Chicago
B.A., Columbia University
For the last 25 years, Andy Rotman has engaged in textual and ethnographic work on the role of narratives, images and markets in South Asia and the religious, social and political functions that they serve. This focus is apparent in his research on early Indian Buddhism, South Asian media and the modern economies of the North Indian bazaar.
His recent publications include Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation (Harvard University Press, 2015), co-written with William Elison and Christian Novetzke, which offers a multiperspectival exegesis of one of India’s most popular films; Thus Have I Seen: Visualizing Faith in Early Indian Buddhism (Oxford University Press, 2009), which considers the construction of faith as a visual practice in Buddhism, and how seeing and believing function as part of intersecting visual and moral systems; and Divine Stories: Translations from the Divyāvadāna, part 1 (Wisdom Publications, 2008), the first half of a two-part translation of an important collection of ancient Buddhist narratives. This volume inaugurated a new translation series from Wisdom Publications called Classics of Indian Buddhism, of which he is also the chief editor. The second volume, Divine Stories: Translations from the Divyāvadāna, part 2, was published with Wisdom Publications in 2017.
Rotman's current research focuses on two book projects, both of which explore the intersection of religion and the market, and the role of mercantilism in creating and resisting moral worlds: (1) Bazaar Religion: Marketing and Moral Economics in Modern India (Harvard University Press, under contract), a longitudinal study of the main bazaars in Varanasi, which examines the moral economy behind the objective economy of visible transactions and the ways that it creates, mediates and sacralizes various moods and modes of behavior; and (2) Saving the World through Commerce? Buddhists, Merchants, and Mercantilism in Early India, which chronicles the close relationship that Buddhism had with merchants and mercantilism in the early centuries of the Common Era, and how the market left its imprint on the foundations of Buddhism, particularly on Buddhist conceptions of morality.
Rotman's courses are concerned with South Asian religion, both premodern and modern, and though he believes that religious studies offer an important heuristic for penetrating the complexities of many social phenomena, he likes to teach materials from a variety of disciplines as a way of triangulating issues. He was trained to examine problems as a scholar of religion and as a philologist, anthropologist and cultural historian, and he trains his students to do the same. Rotman also likes to use nontraditional media in the classroom, such as chromolithographs, advertisements, video archives and devotional recordings to offer insight into under-represented aspects of South Asian religious life, contextualize traditional materials and animate discussions.
Selected Course Syllabi
- Approaches to the Study of Religion
- Religion of the Marketplace: A Demystification
- Religious History of South Asia I: Ancient to Medieval
- Religious History of South Asia II: Medieval to Modern
- Seeing God and Nation: Topics in South Asian Visual Culture
- South Asian Masculinities
- Spiritual But Not Religious
- The Meaning of Life
- Violence and Non-Violence in Religious Traditions of South Asia
Hungry Ghosts. Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 2021.
Divine Stories: Translations from the Divyāvadāna, part 2. Classics of Indian Buddhism Series. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2017.
Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation. Co-written with William Elison and Christian Novetzke. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015.
Thus Have I Seen: Visualizing Faith in Early Indian Buddhism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Divine Stories: Translations from the Divyāvadāna, part 1. Classics of Indian Buddhism Series, inaugural volume. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2008.
Articles and Chapters
“Brandism vs. Bazaarism: Mediating Divinity in Banaras.” In Rethinking Markets in Modern India: Embedded Exchange and Contested Jurisdiction, edited by Ajay Gandhi, Barbara Harriss-White, Douglas E. Haynes, and Sebastian Schwecke, 234–268. Cambridge University Press, 2020.
"In Varanasi We Trust." In The City and South Asia, pp. 53–55. Cambridge: Harvard South Asia Institute, 2014.
"Buddhism and Hospitality: Expecting the Unexpected and Acting Virtuously." In Housing the Stranger: Between Religions, edited by Richard Kearney and James Taylor, 115–122. New York: Continuum, 2011.
"Baba's Got a Brand New Bag: Indian Jute Bags and Exotic Others." In 5 Year Plan: Literary Supplement, edited by Aaron Sinift, 31–55. Jaipur: Krishna Printers, 2010.
"Marketing Morality: The Economy of Faith in Early Indian Buddhism." In Śrīnidhiḥ: Professor Shrikant Shankar Bahulkar's Gratitude Volume, edited by Shripad G. Bhat, Shilpa Sumant, and Ambarish Vasant Khare, 253–290. Pune: Saṁvidyā Institute of Cultural Studies, 2009.
"The Power of Proximity: Creating and Venerating Shrines in Indian Buddhist Narratives." In Buddhist Stūpas in South Asia: Recent Archaeological, Art-Historical, and Historical Perspectives, edited by Jason Hawkes and Akira Shimada, 51–62. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009.
"White African Masks: Representing Africa in a Johannesburg Hotel." Co-written with April Strickland. Material World, October 2007.
"The Erotics of Practice: Objects and Agency in Buddhist Avadāna Literature." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 71.3 (2003): 555–578.
"The Midnight Buffet." Co-written with Elizabeth Pérez. Public Culture 13.2 (2001): 329–332.
Audio and Video
“The Hungry Ghosts Among Us.” With James Shaheen. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. July 14, 2021.
“Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation.” With Kristian Petersen, William Elison, and Christian Novetzke. New Books in Religion. Podcast audio, June 20, 2017.
“The Divine Stories of Early Buddhism.” With Daniel Aitken. The Wisdom Podcast. April 10, 2017.
"Liberation through Images: Seeing the Buddha in Indian Art and Architecture." Lecture at Boston College, in conjunction with Asian Journeys: Collecting Art in Post-War America, an exhibit at the McMullen Museum of Art, April 2010.
"Rotman Collection of Vintage Stereographs of India." Contains 99 19th-century stereographic photographs available online in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional form.
"Tales of the Third Dimension: Bringing 19th-Century India into Wondrous Focus." Insight, April 15, 2013.