Dr. Stephen Berkwitz is the head of the Department of Religious Studies at Missouri State University. In 1999 he completed his PhD in Buddhist history at the University of California, Santa Barbara and his research interests still lie in Buddhist Studies, primarily in Sri Lankan Buddhism, where he focuses on Sinhala Buddhist sources and lay Buddhist practices in Sri Lanka. He has published several monographs, including ‘Buddhist History in the Vernacular: The Power of the Past in Late Medieval Sri Lanka’ , ‘The History of the Buddha's Relic Shrine: A Translation of the Sinhala Thūpavaṃsa’ , and his latest book 'Buddhist Poetry and Colonialism: Alagiyavanna and the Portuguese in Sri Lanka'.
Usually one of the first associations upon hearing ‘Sri Lankan Buddhism’ is either the religious violence that swept across the island in the recent decades, or the Pali canon and Theravada Buddhism. In this interview with Anja Pogacnik, Dr. Stephen Berkwitz doesn’t really speak of either.