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Stephen  Berkwitz - Missouri State University. Springfield, MO, US

Stephen Berkwitz Stephen  Berkwitz

Department Head, Religious Studies | Missouri State University

Springfield, MO, UNITED STATES

Dr. Berkwitz is a religious studies expert who focuses on South Asian religions.



Stephen  Berkwitz Publication Stephen  Berkwitz Publication Stephen  Berkwitz Publication Stephen  Berkwitz Publication Stephen  Berkwitz Publication Stephen  Berkwitz Publication




Scholar explores one of  world's oldest Buddhist  traditions




Dr. Stephen Berkwitz is an expert in religious studies with a special focus on South Asian religions. Over the past 25 years, Dr. Berkwitz has published dozens of publications relating to Buddhism and South Asian culture.

He is the Department Head of Religious Studies at Missouri State University. He serves as series editor for the Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism series, as well as on the editorial board of the journals "Religion", "Journal of Global Buddhism" and "Buddhist Studies Review".

Dr. Berkwitz is also a member of the advisory board for Asian Literature and Translation and holds several memberships relating to Asian Studies and Buddhism.

Industry Expertise (2)

Education/Learning Research

Areas of Expertise (7)

Buddhist studies Theravada Buddhism Sinhala and Pali Literature South Asian religions Theories of Religion Religion and colonialism Yoga and Meditation

Accomplishments (7)

Visiting Research Fellowship, Käte Hamburger Kollege (professional)

Ruhr-Universität Bochum
“Dynamics in the History of Religions Between Asia and Europe”

Luso-American Foundation Scholarship (professional)

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Summer Faculty Fellowship (professional)

Missouri State University

Fulbright Senior Scholar Award in Sri Lanka (professional)

U.S. Department of State

International Travel Award (professional)

Southwest Missouri State University

College Research Award (professional)

College of Humanities and Public Affairs
Southwest Missouri State University

University Teaching Award (professional)

Southwest Missouri State University

Education (3)

University of California, Santa Barbara: Ph.D., Religious Studies 1999

Dissertation: “The Ethics of Buddhist History: A Study of the Pāli and Sinhala Thūpavaṃsas.”

University of California, Santa Barbara: M.A., Religious Studies 1994

Thesis: “Reforming Tradition and Forming Identity in Twentieth-Century Sri Lankan Buddhism.”

University of Vermont: B.A., Religion 1991

Affiliations (15)

  • Member Editorial Board Buddhist Studies Review (2014-)
  • Member Advisory Board Asian Literature and Translation (2013-)
  • Series Editor Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism Routledge Press (2007-)
  • Member Global Studies Committee (2007-)
  • Member Editorial Board Journal of Global Buddhism (2009-)
  • Chair Asian Studies Committee (2003-2011 2012-)
  • Book Review Editor Religion (2003-2016)
  • Member Editorial Board Religion (1999-)
  • American Academy of Religion - Member
  • American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies - Member
  • Association for Asian Studies - Member
  • International Association of Buddhist Studies - Member
  • Pali Text Society - Member
  • Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka - Member
  • United Kingdom Association of Buddhist Studies - Member

Languages (6)

  • English
  • German
  • French
  • Portuguese
  • Sinhala
  • Pali

Sample Talks (5)

Re-Centering the Buddhist World in the Vaṁsakathā of Sri Lanka

Presented at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany

Re-Placing the Bodhi Tree in the Sinhala Bōdhivaṁśaya

Presented at University of Texas-Austin

Making Religion and Making Sense

Presented at Religion and the Senses Conference, Käte Hamburger Kolleg, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany

Buddhist Poetry and Religious Identity in Early Modern Sri Lanka

Presented at Philosophische Fakultät, University of Heidelberg, Germany

To Protect and Praise the King: Gods in Sinhala Sandesha Poetry

Presented at Käte Hamburger Kolleg, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany

Research Grants (4)

Wabash Center Undergraduate Department Grant

Wabash Center 


Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning Project Grant

Wabash Center 


Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning Consultation Grant

Wabash Center 


Faculty Research Grant

Southwest Missouri State University 


Minds-Eye (1)

Scholar explores one of world’s oldest Buddhist Cultures

You might think it unlikely that a country that evolved from several warring kingdoms and endured three European occupations and a long civil war during its history would also be home to one of the oldest continuous Buddhist traditions on the planet.

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Articles (5)

Sinhala Buddhist Appropriations of Indic Cultural Forms: Literary Imitations and Conquests Religions of South Asia

The development of Sinhala literature and Buddhist culture in Sri Lanka between the tenth and sixteenth centuries ce reveals a complex negotiation of appropriating elements of Indic culture and distinguishing their Sinhala variants. Vernacular traditions of writing and worshipping emphasized the island’s differences from the mainland, despite (or perhaps because of) the invasions and cultural imports from South India. Examining the use of a literary vernacular, praise poetry, and messenger poetry in Sinhala, this article explores medieval Sri Lankan efforts to appropriate and ultimately rival the literary and religious cultures from the neighboring subcontinent.

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Reimagining Buddhist Kingship in a Sinhala Praśasti Journal of the American Oriental Society


The fifteenth-century Pärakumbā Sirita (Account of King Parākramabāhu VI) represents an early attempt to wed the praśasti genre to Sinhala court poetry (kavi). Drawing upon Sri Lankan and broader Indic traditions of eulogistic royal inscriptions, this work utilized the Sinhala language to transform a Buddhist king into a praiseworthy ruler who could rival the rulers of other lands.

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Textbook Buddhism: Introductory Books on the Buddhist Religion Religion


Textbooks on Buddhism comprise a large,varied genre and have long been used to introduce the religion to students in academic settings. This review essay examines ten textbooks on the subject, noting their distinctive features, strengths, and weaknesses, as well as the types of courses that are well suited to each work.

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In Praise of the Portuguese: Images of Power and Religion in Seventeenth-Century Ceilão Anais De História De Além-Mar


Sometime around 1619 in Sri Lanka – known then as Ceilão by Portu-guese colonialists –, a Sinhala poet called Alagiyavanna Mukaveti composed a lengthy poem in praise of Constantino de Sá de Noronha, the newly-appointed capitão-geral in the island.

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An Ugly King and the Mother Tongue: Notes on Kusa Jātaka in Sinhala Language and Culture Parallax


To call the Sinhala language of Sri Lanka a 'mother tongue' risks oversimplifying a complex history of how the language has been used and perceived. This essay states that the language uses a unique lexicon with phonetic and metrical forms that render the vernacular into a kind of dialect that is readily distinguishable from ordinary spoken speech.