Edward Conze: A Call to Reassess the Man and his Contribution to Prajñāpāramitā Studies

Jayarava Attwood


Edward Conze still dominates the field of Prajñāpāramitā Studies, such as it is, forty years after his death in 1979. He continues to draw the highest praise from some quarters for his “meticulous” scholarship and his “pioneering” work on Prajñāpāramitā. Does he deserve this praise? As a person, he could be extremely unpleasant shading into something more like malevolence. He was a self-confessed elitist, who hated “blacks” and thought of women as “servants”. As a scholar, Conze was erratic, eccentric, and obscurantist with a conscious commitment to magical thinking. His editions, translations, and exegesis of Prajñāpāramitā are all unreliable. The argument here, however, is not for summary judgement; rather, I present evidence to establish the case for a thorough reassessment of Conze’ s oeuvre.

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