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Curriculum Vitae


Department of Religion
Olin Hall 149
Whitman College
Walla Walla, WA 99362
Phone: 509-527-5246
FAX: 509-527-5039
E-mail: walterjs@whitman.edu


Ph.D. in the History of Religions (1992)
University of Chicago Divinity School

A. M. in Religious Studies (1986)
University of Chicago Divinity School

Non-degree Language Study (1983-85)
University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

B.A. in History and Religion (1983)
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine


George Hudson Ball Endowed Chair of Humanities, 2011-present

Paul Garrett Fellowship, 1999-2007

Adam Dublin Award for Global Multiculturalism, 2006-2007

Louis B. Perry Award for Student-Faculty research 1998, 2004, 2006, 2009

Associate, Committee on Southern Asian Studies, University of Chicago, Fall, 1996

Arnold and Lois Graves Award in the Humanities, 1996-1997

Thomas D. Howells Award for Distinguished Teaching in Humanities and Arts, 1995

National Endowment for the Humanities, Summer Stipend, 1994

Johnston Visiting Professorship, 1993-94

Ph.D. awarded “with distinction,” 1992

Committee on Southern Asian Studies Research Grant, 1990-91

Junior Fellowship, Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion, 1991-92

Ph.D. Qualifying Exams passed “with distinction,” 1989

Divinity School Fellowship, 1988-89; 1989-90

Committee on Southern Asian Studies Stipend, 1987-88; 1991-92

Divinity School Entering Fellowship, 1985-86

Fulbright Scholar in Sri Lanka, 1983-85

Highest Honors in Religion, 1983

Phi Beta Kappa, 1982

James Bowdoin Award for Scholastic Excellence, each term, 1979-83

National Forensics League State Champion Debater, 1979


American Academy of Religion, member, 1992-present

American Institute of Sri Lankan Studies, member, 1996-present; Board of Directors, 1996-2005

Intercollegiate Sri Lanka Education (I.S.L.E.) Program, Board of Directors, 1996-2009

International Representative, Committee to Protect the Eppawala Phosphate Deposit, 1998-present


Professor of Religion, Whitman College, 2007-present; Associate Professor, 1997-2007; Assistant Professor, 1994-1997; Visiting Assistant Professor 1992-1994

Director of Global Studies, Whitman College, June 2012-June 2014

Elected Chair of the Division of Humanities and Arts, Whitman College, 2008-2011

Faculty Director, I.S.L.E. Program in Sri Lanka, Spring 1997; Fall 2001; Spring 2002; Spring 2003

Visiting Lecturer in Comparative Religion, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, 1990-91

Executive Assistant, Amnesty International, London, Summer 1990

Lecturer of Pali, The University of Chicago Committee on Southern Asian Studies, 1989-90

Teaching Assistant, The College of the University of Chicago, History Dept., Winter 1990

Student Coordinator, Workshop on Buddhism, University of Chicago Divinity School, 1988-89

Editorial Assistant, History of Religions Journal, 1988-89

Manuscripts Assistant, The University of Chicago Joseph Regenstein Library, Department of Special Collections, 1986-89

Lecturer of Pali, Northwestern University, Religious Studies Dept., 1987-88

History Bibliographer’s Assistant,, Joseph Regenstein Library, 1985-86

Resident Assistant, I.S.L.E. Program in Sri Lanka, 1983

Teaching Assistant, Bowdoin College, Dept. of Religion, Spring, 1983


Sanskrit (reading, all genres)
Pāli (reading, all genres; chanting)
Sinhala (reading, all genres; colloquial fluency)
German (reading)
French (reading)
Spanish (reading)


(With John C. Holt and Jacob N. Kinnard, co-editors,) Constituting Communities: Theravāda Buddhism and the Religious Cultures of South and Southeast Asia (Albany: SUNY Press, 2003)

(with Ronald Inden and Daud Ali, co-authors), Querying the Medieval: Texts and the History of Practices in South Asia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)

Finding Buddhists in Global History (Washington, D.C.: American Historical Association, 1998).

The History of Kelaniya (Colombo: S.S.A, 1996).

Rethinking Buddhist Missions (Ph.D. Diss, Chicago, 1992)


“Foreword,” in Alice Collett, Lives of Early Buddhist Nuns: Biographies as History (Oxford University Press, India: 2015, in press).

“Apadāna: Therī-apadāna: Wives of the Saints: Marriage and Karma in the Apadāna,” in Alice Collett, ed., Women in Early Indian Buddhism: Comparative Textual Studies (Oxford University Press, New York, 2014): 160-191

“Flanked by Images of Our Buddha: Community, Law and Religion in a Premodern Buddhist Context,” in Rebecca Redwood French and Mark A. Nathan, eds., Buddhism and Law: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014): 134-149

“Gods’ Play and the Buddha’s Way: Varieties of Ritual Levity in Contemporary Sinhala Practice,” in Selva Raj and Corinne Dempsey, eds., Ritual Levity in South Asian Religions (SUNY: 2010): 123-139

“Dhānyakataka Revisited: Buddhist Politics in Post-Buddhist Andhra Pradesh,” in Sree Padma and A. W. Barber, eds., Buddhism in The Krishna River Valley (SUNY: 2008): 169-207

(with Matthew B. Colley, ’07) “Making History: George Turnour, Edward Upham, and the ‘Discovery’ of Mahavamsa, in Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities XXXII, nos. 1 and 2 (2006): 135-167

“Communal Karma and Karmic Community in Theravāda Buddhist History,” in Holt, Kinnard and Walters, eds., Constituting Communities: Theravāda Buddhism and the Religious Cultures of South and Southeast Asia (Albany: SUNY Press, 2003): 9-39

“Mapping Sāñchi in a Whole Buddhist World,” in C. Witanachchi, ed., Lily De Silva Felicitation Volume, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, 2002: 1-14

“Finding Buddhists in Global History” (slightly revised), in Michael C. Adas, ed., Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001): 325-359

“Suttas as History: Four Approaches to the Sermon on the Noble Quest (Ariyapariyesanasutta),” in History of Religions Journal 38,3 (February, 1999): 247-284. Reprint version in Karen Derris and Natalie Gummer, eds., Defining Buddhisms (Equinox Press, 2008): 44-80

“Buddhist History: The Pāli Vaṃsas of Sri Lanka and Their Commentary.” In Inden, Walters and Ali, eds., Querying the Medieval: Texts and the History of Practices in South Asia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000): 99-164

“Buried Treasure in Sri Lankan History,” Social Scientists’ Association Occasional Papers Series, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1998

“Mahāsena at the Mahāvihāra: The Interpretation and Politics of History in Medieval Sri Lanka,” in Daud Ali, ed., Invoking the Past: the Uses of History in South Asia (Oxford, 1999): 322-366.

“Mahāyāna Theravāda and the Origins of the Mahāvihāra” in The Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities, XXIII, Nos. 1 and 2 (1997): 100-119

“Pushing Poson: The Politics of a Buddhist Pilgrimage in Postcolonial Sri Lanka,” in Michael Roberts, ed., Sri Lanka: Collective Identities Revisited, Vol. 2 (Colombo: Marga, 1998): 133-162

“Stupa, Story and Empire: Constructions of the Buddha Biography in Early Post-Aśokan India,” in J. Schober, ed., Sacred Biography in the Buddhist Traditions of South and Southeast Asia (Hawaii, 1997): 160-192. Slightly revised version reprinted in Jason Hawkes and Akira Shimada, eds., Buddhist Stupas in South Asia: Recent Archaeological, Art-Historical and Historical Perspectives (Delhi: Oxford University Press/SOAS Studies on South Asia series, 2009): 235-263

“Multireligion on the Bus in Sri Lanka: Beyond ‘Influence’ and ‘Syncretism’ in the Study of Religious Meetings,” in Ismail and Jeganathan, eds., Unmaking the Nation (Colombo: S.S.A., 1995): 25-54. Second edition, Colombo, 2009: 34-60

“A Voice from the Silence: The Buddha's Mother's Story,” History of Religions Journal 33,4 (May, 1994): 358-79

“Gotami’s Story: Introduction and Translation,” in Donald S. Lopez, Jr., ed., Buddhism in Practice (Princeton, 1995):113-38. Abridged edition, Princeton, 2007: 107-132.

“Paw Samwardhana: Voices from a Developing Sri LankanVillage, retold by Nigrodha”, Pravada 2, 9 (October/November 1993):19-22.

“Lovely Lady Lankā: A Tenth Century Depiction,” in The Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities XIX, Nos. 1 & 2 (1993, publ. 1995): 45-56

“Vibhishana and Vijayanagar: An Essay on Religion and Geopolitics in Medieval Sri Lanka,” in The Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities, Special Jubilee Issue (1990/1994): 129-42

“The Buddha's Bad Karma: A Problem in the History of Theravāda Buddhism,” Numen 37,1 (June, 1990): 70-95

“Sacrificing Rene Girard: Toward a Purposeful Reorientation of Studies in Religion,” Critical Theology 3 (Easter, 1990): 23-33


“The American Buddha: a History,” delivered at Willamette University, November, 2013

“Global Greed, Grassroots Resistance and Religion: Agency and Culture in the Struggle to Protect the Eppawala Phosphate Deposit,” delivered at Swarthmore College, February 2011

“Religion, History and the Power of the Peripheralized: Three Cases from British Ceylon,” delivered at the University of Pennsylvania, February 2011.

“Showing South Asia: Indians and Sri Lankans in the Hagenbecks’ Human Zoos,” delivered at Cornell University, October 2010

“Ceylon at the Circus: Alternative Orientalisms in the Late-19th Century West,” delivered at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, Sri Lanka, June 2008 and the Sri Lanka Studies Seminar, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, July 2008

“Buddhist Historians after the World-wish: Rājāvaliya Reappraised,” delivered at the festschrift conference for Ronald Inden “Sacred Cows and Mad Prophets,” University of Chicago, April 2006

“After all is Said, and Done: Orientalism, Buddhist Studies, and the Missionaries of Each,” delivered at the conference on Buddhism and Orientalism, University of Toronto, March 2006

“Strings of Kings (Among Other Things): Comparative Reflections on the Historiography of Late Premodern Sri Lanka,” delivered at Workshop on The State of Play: The Future of History in Indian Studies,” Oxford University, September 2005

“A Buddhist in Post-Buddhist India: Dharmakīrti Sthavira’s 14th Century Pūjā at Amarāvatī,” delivered at the Philosophy Seminar, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, April 2003

“History and Significance of the American Buddha,” delivered at the Philosophy Seminar, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, November 2001

“Communal Karma and Karmic Community in Theravāda Buddhist History,” delivered at the Conference on Constituting Communities, Breckenridge Center of Bowdoin College, July 2000

“The American Buddha: A Brief History from the Streets back to the Greeks,” delivered at Drew University, October 1999

“Stamp Acts: Philatelic Self-representation in Ceylon and Sri Lanka,” delivered at the Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, Wisconsin, October 1998 and at the International Center for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, Jan. 1999

“Four Modes of Finding History in the Noble Quest,” delivered at an American Academy of Religion-sponsored collaboration on “Pāli Texts in New Contexts,” University of Chicago, May, 1998

“Mapping Sāñchi in a Whole Buddhist World,” delivered at the Postgraduate Institute of Pāli and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, June, 1997

“Mahāsena at the Mahāvihāra: The Interpretation and Politics of History in Premodern Sri Lanka,” delivered at the Conference on the Uses of the Past in South Asia, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, April, 1997.

“The Mahāyāna Origins of the Theravāda,” delivered at the Ceylon Studies Seminar, the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, April, 1997.

“The Politics of Treasure Pits,” delivered at the Social Scientists Association, Colombo, Sri Lanka, March, 1997

“The Arhats of Ancient Anurādhapura,” delivered at the University of Chicago, Workshop on Buddhism, November, 1996.

“An ‘H’ of ‘HR’,” delivered at the conference on “Reconstructing a History of Religions: Problems and Possibilities,” Western Maryland College, November 1996 and at a symposium on the same topic, University of Chicago Divinity School, November 1996.

“Archaeology, Treasure Pits and Demons from Across the Sea: Digging up the History and Practice of a Sinhala Mytheme,” delivered at the South Asia Workshop, University of Chicago, November, 1996

“World Map, World Order: Imagining and Commanding Space in Buddhist South Asia,” delivered at the Association of Asian Studies, Honolulu, April 1996

“Pushing Poson: Power and a Buddhist Pilgrimage in Postcolonial Sri Lanka,” delivered at the Annual Conference on South Asia, Madison, WI, October, 1995

“The Popular Culture of Poson: Innovation as Tradition in a Sri Lankan Buddhist Festival,” delivered at the Western Conference, Association of Asian Studies, Lewiston, Idaho, September, 1995

“Will the Historical Buddha Please Sit Down?,” delivered at the Symposium on Building Buddhas, Drew University, April, 1995

“Deanimating and Reanimating the Dead in Rural Sri Lanka,” delivered at the American Academy of Religion, Chicago, November, 1994

“Positivist Paradise Lost: Three Lectures on the Mahāvamsa,” delivered at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 1994

“The History and Politics of Kelaniya Temple,” delivered at the Social Scientists' Association, Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 1993

“Buddhism and Politics in Contemporary Sri Lanka,” delivered to the Teacher's Workshop on Contemporary Religious Issues in South Asia, South Asia Outreach Educational Project, Chicago, July 1992.

“From Cruel Aśoka to Dharmāśoka: Ecumenicalism and the Stabilization of Peace in Sri Lanka,” delivered at the Seminar on Religion and Violence in South Asia, the University of Chicago, April, 1992

“Multireligion on the Bus in Sri Lanka: Beyond ‘Influence’ and ‘Syncretism’ in the Study of Religious Meetings,” delivered at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion, The University of Chicago Divinity School, November 1991

“The Psychology of Healing in a Sri Lankan Village,” delivered at the University of Peradeniya Psychological Seminar, February 1991

“Stupa, Story and Empire,” delivered at the University of Chicago Symposium on Buddhist Biography, April, 1990

“Hearing History: The Pāli Chronicles of Sri Lanka,” delivered at the University of Chicago Colloquium on Text and Knowledge in South Asia, April, 1989 and (revised) February, 1990.

“Buddhists and Brethren,” delivered at the Bethany Theological Seminary, October, 1988.

“History of Kelaniya Temple: An Inquiry into Sinhala Political Formation,” delivered at the Chicago Anthropological Symposium, April, 1987.

“Picturing the Path: Late Canonical Texts and the Expansion of Early Buddhism,” delivered at the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs, October, 1986


“Rituals and Practices,” entire section of Charles Prebish and Damien Keown, eds., Encyclopedia of Buddhism (Routledge/Curzon, 2007). Separate articles/entries on: “Rituals and Practices: Overview”; “Rituals and Practices: Bibliography”; “Full Moon Day and other Calendrical Observances”; “New Year and National Festivals”; “Medical Practices”; “Buddhist Politics”; “Preaching/Dharma Transmission”; “Pilgrimage”; “Moral Discipline”; “Worship”; “Monastic Rituals”; “Charity”; “Funerals and other Life-cycle Rituals”; “Chanting Practices”; “Healing and Protective Practices”

“Calendrical Rituals and Festivals,” in Robert Buswell et al, eds.,Encyclopedia of Buddhism (New York: Macmillan, 2004)

“Aśoka” and “Missions: Buddhist Missions,” in Lindsay Jones, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion 2nd ed. (New York: Macmillan, 2005)

“Buddhism,” Encyclopedia Britannica Annual, yearly contribution on world Buddhist events 1995-1998 and, with Frank E. Reynolds, 1989-1994.

(with Gunapala Dharmasiri), “God,” Malalasekera et al, eds., Encyclopedia of Buddhism (Colombo), Volume 5, Fascicle 2 (1991):345-47


Review of Patrick Olivelle, tr,, Life of the Buddha by Ashvaghosha (Clay Sanskrit Library, 2008), in H-Buddhism, January 2012. (online at https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php? id=31510).

Review of Mahinda Deegalle, ed, Buddhism, Conflict and Violence in Modern Sri Lanka (Routledge, 2006), in Contemporary South Asia 7,4 (2009): 452-454

Review of Daud Ali, Courtly Culture and Political Life in Early Medieval India (Cambridge University Press, 2004), in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 18, 3 (July 2008): 385-387
Review of Ananda Abeysekara, Colors of the Robe: Religion, Identity and Difference (University of South Carolina Press, 2002), in History of Religions Journal (2004)

Review of Gananath Obeyesekere, Imagining Karma (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001) in International Journal of Hindu Studies, 2003

Review of Anne M. Blackburn, Buddhist Learning and Textual Practice in Eighteenth Century Lankan Monastic Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001) in Buddhist-Christian Studies (2003)

Review of H. L. Seneviratne, The Work of Kings: the New Buddhism of Sri Lanka, in Journal of Asian and African Studies (2003)

Review of Joel Tatelman, The Glorious Deeds of Purna: A Translation and Study of The Purnavadana (Surrey: Curzon Press, 2000), Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000): 199–203 (http://jbe.la.psu.edu/7/walters001.html).

Review of Gregory Schopen, Bones, Stones and Buddhist Monks, in History of Religions Journal, 40, 3 (February, 2001)

Review of Donald S. Lopez, Jr., Elaborations on Emptiness: Uses of the Heart Sūtra, in International Journal Of Hindu Studies, 1998

Review of Paul David Numrich, Old Wisdom in the New World: Americanization in Two Immigrant Theravada Buddhist Temples, in Journal of the American Academy of Religion, XLV, No. 1 (Spring, 1997): 235-37

Review of K.N.O. Dharmadasa, Language, Religion an Ethnic Assertiveness: The Growth of Sinhalese Nationalism in Sri Lanka, in Anthropological Linguistics 33,3 (1994): 330-32

Review of R. L. Stirrat, Power and Religiosity in a Post-Colonial Setting: Sinhala Catholics in Contemporary Sri Lanka, in Journal of Religion 74,3 (July, 1994): 431-32

Review of Steven Kemper, The Presence of the Past: Chronicles, Politics, and Culture in Sinhala Life, in Journal of Religion 73, 3 (July, 1993): 450-51

Review of William E. Biernatzki, S.J., Roots of Acceptance: The Intercultural Communication of Religious Meanings, Journal of Asian Studies (May, 1992): 366-67

Review of Gunapala Dharmasiri, Fundamentals of Buddhist Ethics and id., A Buddhist Critique of the Christian Concept of God, in Journal of Religion 70,3 (July,1990): 497-99

Review of Peter Khoroche, tr., Once the Buddha was a Monkey: Arya Sura's Jātakamāla, in Chicago South Asia Newsletter 14,2 (March, 1990): 8

Review of Richard Gombrich, Theravāda Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo, Philosophy East and West 40,2 (April, 1990): 251-53

Review of Uma Cakravarti, Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism, Journal of Religion 69,4 (October, 1989): 592



Faces of the Empire: Photographs from British South Asia. Exhibition, Whitman College Sheehan Gallery, February-April, 2005

Palm Leaves and Postcards: Material Culture and Its Representation in Colonial Ceylon. Exhibition and palm-leaf format catalogue. Sheehan Gallery, Whitman College, October, 1995
(also available on-line: (http://www.whitman.edu/Departments/Sheehan/PostCards/postcards.html)

The Buddha’s Sermon on the Practice of Loving Kindness, a free verse translation of Karaniyamettasutta published as a contemporary artist's book by Barbara Tetenbaum, Whitman College Book Arts Laboratory, August 1995.

“Appreciating Buddhist Art in the Post-Orientalist Age,” and sculpture descriptions in [Walters, Takemoto and Mitchell,] Paths to Enlightenment: Buddhist Art in the Whitman College Collections (Whitman College Gallery, 1994) and associated exhibition

“The Life and Legacy of Marcus Whitman,” delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Plainfield (MA) Historical Society, July 2005

“The Buddha at Whitman,” 1997 Convocation Address, Whitman College, published in Whitman magazine, Winter, 1997: 2-6

“Japanese rise up against Eppawala mining,” Sunday Times (Colombo), April 23, 2000

“Eppawala: Who’s Behind It?,” Sunday Times (Colombo), April 9, 2000

“Tomen Corporation involved in Controversial Sri Lankan Mining Project,”interview by Steve Hesse, Japan Times, Tokyo, 25 October 1999

“American Confronts American at Eppawala,” interview by Rohan Wijesinghe, The Island, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 11 October 1999

“Eppawala Pospet Nidhiya Vikinima Pitupasa Kapatikamak Tibenewa,” interview by Subhash Jayawardana, Irida Peramuna, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 4 July 1999 (in Sinhala)

“Eppawala Pradeshaya Surakshanaya Karamu,” presentation and discussion at the Anuradhapura District Lion’s Club, Talawa, Sri Lanka, July 1999 (in Sinhala)

“Americans for Eppawala” web site (http://people.whitman.edu/~walterjs/)

“Not in My Back Yard, Either,” video documentary, Spring, 1999 (http://people.whitman.edu/~walterjs/movie.html)

“Eppawala: Don’t Change this Way of Life,” in The Sunday Times (Colombo) 4 October 1998

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