Indiana University Bloomington

IU religious studies professor Michael Ing wins Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation grant

  • July 2, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Michael Ing, assistant professor of religious studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington, was awarded a Junior Scholars Grant by The Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange. Ing will receive $30,000 to study "Vulnerabilities of the Self in Early Confucianism."

As part of the foundation's grant, Ing will look at vulnerability in the context of early Confucianism. In particular, he will examine the meaningful things people believed to be beyond their control: for example, relationships, social position, health and loss. Ing's project will challenge the dominant view of Confucian self-cultivation as invulnerable to misfortune. He will bring neglected texts to bear on contemporary philosophical issues, broadening the field of Confucian thought.

Ing believes his study will reveal "a kind of value" in vulnerability.

"Vulnerability, in this light, shows the risks associated with living a good life," Ing said. "It demonstrates that living a life without risk is a life not worth living. A vulnerable self is a permeable and precarious self, yet the self can only be cultivated by opening up to relationships with other people."

Uncertainty is not a new field for Ing. In his first book, "The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism," Ing examined how the authors of a text called the Liji, purportedly the immediate disciples of Confucius, coped with the possibility that their rituals might fail to create an ordered world. It demonstrated that their concern over the dysfunction of ritual did not undermine their confidence in ritual, but rather acted as a productive anxiety that created space for innovation and experimentation within those rituals.

The Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange was established in 1989 in memory of Chiang Ching-kuo (1910-1988), former president of the Republic of China. Since its inception, the foundation has funded over 3,000 research projects in more than 60 countries. Each year, grants valued at approximately $4.5 million are distributed.

Ing received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2011 and served as a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences at National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan, before coming to Indiana University.

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Steve Hinnefeld