Stephanie Balkwill

A photo of Stephanie Balkwill
E-mail: Office: Royce Hall 290

I am interested in the literary and public lives of Buddhist women who lived in what is now China between the 4th and 6th centuries. My research engages the question of whether or not Buddhist affiliation provided new social and educational opportunities for women in early medieval China, and, in turn, argues that women were influential in the early spread of the Buddhist tradition throughout East Asia. I am currently undertaking two major research projects in this area, each with its own series of publications. The first project examines the political lives of Buddhist women in the Northern Wei dynasty and puts forth the thesis that the Northern Wei offers the earliest known case study that we have for the confluence of women, Buddhism, and political power that is seen across East Asia in the medieval period. The second project examines the prominence of female-to-male sex transformation narratives in Mahāyāna Buddhist texts within the context of the gendered practice of the tradition in early medieval China.

At present, I am working on revisions to a book-length study of Northern Wei Empress Dowager Ling, entitled: Numinous Under Heaven: The Rise and Fall of a Female, Buddhist Regent in 6th Century Luoyang. I hope to have it published in 2023 with an Open Access series.

I am also the co-Director of the Buddhist Bodies Collective. The aim of the project is to curate and publish new, Open Access, body-centered resources for the teaching of Buddhism at the introductory level and across the humanities more broadly. Follow us on Twitter: @bodiesbuddhist


Open Access Publications:

2022. Co-edited with James Benn. Buddhist Statecraft in East Asia. Series on East Asian Religions. Leiden: Brill.

      1. Translation of the Sūtra Of the Unsullied Worthy GirlSpecial Issue on Translation, Ed. Natasha Heller. Journal of Chinese Buddhist Studies.
      1. A Virtuoso Nun in the North: Situating the Earliest-known dated biography of a Buddhist nun in East Asia.Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies. 3.2: 129-161.
      1. When Renunciation is Good Politics: The Women of the Imperial Nunnery of the Northern Wei (386-534).”Nan Nü: Men, Women, and Gender in China 18.2: 224-256.

Other Publications:

      1. Disappearing and Disappeared Daughters in Medieval Chinese Buddhism: Sūtras on Sexual Transformation and an Intervention into Their Transmission History.”History of Religions.

2021, Co-authored with James Benn “Buddhist Statecraft.” In Oxford Bibliographies in Buddhism. Ed. Courtney Bruntz. New York: Oxford University Press.

      1. Why does a Woman need to Become a Man in Order to Become a Buddha?: Past Investigations, New Leads.”Religion Compass 12.8.
      1. The Sūtra on Transforming the Female Form: Unpacking an Early Medieval Chinese Buddhist Text.”Journal of Chinese Religions 44.2: 127-148.

Public Scholarship

2021, with Amy Langenberg, “It’s not Rigor, It’s Hazing.” Step Forward: A Project of the Buddhist Studies Complaint Collective. Ho Centre for Buddhist Studies at the University of Toronto.

2020, “Ask a Buddhist Studies Scholar: Is Buddhism Apolitical?” Ten Thousand Things Blog.

2019, “Becoming a Buddha: Lessons from Little Girls.” Buddhadharma. Fall, 2019.