Visiting Research Scholar Spotlight: Annette Juliano

By Annette Juliano

“Timing can be everything!” In my life, my appointment as a year-long Visiting Research Scholar at ISAW came at an extraordinarily auspicious (propitious) moment as I contemplated significant changes about to happen in my career as a scholar, teacher and mentor. Just before I arrived at ISAW, I was very pleased to be asked to become one of the co-editors of the Journal of Inner Asian Art and Archaeology, joining Judith Lerner and Sören Stark. This first year of editing has proven challenging, stimulating, frustrating and time consuming; at the same time, it is a privilege to work with Judith and Soren who have devoted considerable time and energy to establishing such an outstanding, internationally recognized publication. I also began to reassess my major research project on Chinese Northern Zhou (557-581 CE) Buddhist sculpture and painting, which I have been struggling to move forward during the last several years.  Then, the possibility arose of retiring from my University Professorship giving me more time and flexibility to pursue my research. 

With these considerations in mind, I began my year at ISAW. This year which is not yet over has already been one of my most productive and not just because I was not teaching. The ISAW environment creates a paradoxical dynamic, both rarefied and realistic. My working space -- a commodious carrel -- supported intense and uninterrupted writing, as well as contemplation. Unusual research materials are easily accessible through unparalleled online resources, and an exceptional library and technical staff are not only fully familiar with the research and publication processes but are also willing and amazing problem solvers. Without question, the social dimension of scholarship, the morning coffee and afternoon tea, helped maintain alertness and promote discussions about research, not to mention the cookies or cakes.  At lunch, good food also encourages weighty conversations, often continuations of ideas discussed in the morning and afternoon seminars. Although my fifth floor carrel mates are a very serious lot, late afternoons and early evenings still provide impromptu opportunities for chats about “real world” challenges, teaching with cell phones and computers in your classrooms, job hunting strategies, birthday parties, theater performances, recent travel experiences, and the like.


Attendant figure wearing a fabric with pearl roundels filled with female head, possibly a bodhisattva, from tomb of Xuxianxiu and his wife, Taiyuan, Shanxi, Northern Qi Dynasty (550-557)

My research on Northern Zhou sculpture has made considerable progress as I learned to build the databases and map geographic locations of temples. By late July, I will be in an excellent position to return to northern China and sites in Xinjiang to continue documenting mid-6th century Buddhist sculpture and painting. My participation in a symposium in Princeton in the Fall and in the workshop Parvaneh Pourshariati organized in April, Iran Across the East/West Trade: Routes of Communication and Exchange, Products of Exchange, and Networks of Trade circa 500-900 CE opened up another dimension to my research of early Buddhist sculpture in northwest China and Xinjiang, the representation of textiles painted on walls and sculptures in the Buddhist Cave temples. One particular pattern long associated with West Asia, the pearl border and pearl roundel raises some very challenging questions about the origins and use in Buddhist and non-Buddhist contexts in northern China and Central Asia.  Perhaps worthy of a workshop at ISAW in 2017?

Read Annette's full bio here.