As of Fall 2013, Dr. Megan Bryson is a new Assistant Professor of East Asian Religions in the Department of Religious Studies, but she isn't new to UT or Knoxville. She arrived in 2010, after many years spent in her native Oregon and then in California, where she earned her PhD from the Buddhist Studies Program of Stanford University's Department of Religious Studies. In her three years as a lecturer, Dr. Bryson has already accomplished much. She curated the award-winning exhibit "Zen Buddhism and the Arts of Japan" at the McClung Museum and in 2013, she won a prestigious Alumni Outstanding Teacher Award. As an Assistant Professor, she regularly teaches courses on East Asian religions, including "Religions of China," "Religions of Japan," and "Zen Buddhism."
Dr. Bryson's research focuses on Buddhism in Southwest China, specifically in the Dali region of Yunnan Province, an area with a large ethnic minority population, where she conducted fieldwork between 2006-2009. She is completing a book, The Boundaries of Chinese Religion, that uses Dali as a case study to examine the role religion has played in representing Chinese identity from the twelfth century to the present. Dali has been neglected in studies of Chinese religion because it is not seen as "Chinese." In her manuscript, Dr. Bryson argues that Dali's religious traditions come primarily from Chinese territory, which reveals the limitations of the black-and-white terms "Chinese" and "non-Chinese." Her other research projects focus primarily on the Dali kingdom's distinctive Buddhist traditions, particularly texts and artworks that have not been found anywhere else. She has also written articles about ethnicity, gender, and Dali religion for journals such as Asian Ethnology, Signs, and the Journal of International Association of Buddhist Studies. Dr. Bryson plans to return to Dali soon to begin research on new projects.
In the 2013-14 year, Dr. Bryson has presented (or will soon present) her research at several national and international conferences, including in Belgium, Japan, Israel, and Germany. As much as Dr. Bryson enjoys this global travel and exchanging ideas with international scholars, she always looks forward to returning to her new home in Knoxville. She especially loves the outdoor recreation here: she frequently hikes in the Smokies and has completed the Knoxville Marathon twice.