Rafal Stepien is the Assistant Professor of Asian Religions at Hampshire College. He is a scholar of religion, philosophy, and literature. His research is inter-disciplinary, cross-regional, and poly-glottic, ranging among Buddhist and Islamic philosophical and literary texts from East, South, and West Asia. He is primarily a specialist of Chinese and Sanskrit Buddhist thought, but cultivates a keen subsidiary interest in Islamic thought composed in Arabic and Persian. He participated in Woodenfish HBMLP in 2007 and returned as an instructor in 2013.
In this interview, Rafal looks back at his own trajectory and “intellectual wanderings” which have included study in Italy, Iran, working in Afghanistan as a Persian interpreter with the International Red Cross, studying Chinese at Oxford, and much, much more. He is an expert on a wide cross-section of Buddhist and Islamic philosophies and literatures, imparts words of wisdom for those interested in pursuing a career in academia, and is an articulate, thoughtful and generous scholar.
On his Woodenfish experience: "It really was a transitional moment in which my engagement with Buddhism, and especially with East Asian Buddhism became a lot more focused.”
On his ideal title: "I have an ideal title, it would just be Professor of Reality, that’s what I’m interested in."
On his approach: "Junior academics are urged to be inter-disciplinary or multi-disciplinary. I am certainly one that has imbibed that dictum and am a firm believer that some of the most original work in the field and various field is precisely work that cuts across traditional ways of thinking, and that’s by definition innovative."
Listen to the audio recording here.