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Buddhist Identities: Method, Theory and Case Studies of Buddhist Diversities (2/2)

A094
Panel Chairs: Cameron David Warner, Jørn Borup | Monday, August 24, 3:30-5:30 p.m.

What does it mean to be a Buddhist? How does it relate to other identity markers such as gender, caste, social position, ethnicity, and nationality? As a missionary religion, Buddhists aim to convert others to their way of life, but how is that done? How do you become a Buddhist at an ontological/epistemological level? How do you become a Buddhist from an etic point of view vs. an emic Buddhadharma viewpoint? These panels propose a critical analysis of textual sources and regional contexts of Buddhism and Buddhists, and debate methodological and theoretical approaches for the study of the topic.

Fabio Rambelli

Variety and Limits of Buddhist Identities in Pre-modern Japan

The paper explores different modalities of Buddhist identity in pre-modern Japan, ranging from medieval monks' self-identification as "sons of the Buddha" (busshi), to ideas of Japan as a unique Buddhist country (bukkoku) – ideas which however did not affect the individual or collective identity of contemporaneous Japanese, to the forceful attempt to create a state-sanctioned Buddhist identity through temple registration and participation in temple activities during the Edo period (seventeenth to twentieth centuries). In particular, the paper discusses the impact of Tokugawa religious policies on the formation and characterization of Buddhist identities as well as their limits, especially in light of the coexistence, also within the Edo period Buddhist discourse itself, of a number of different and competing religious and intellectual discourses (in addition to Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto, and others).

Mark Teeuwen

Religious Identity and the Christian Heresy in Late Edo Japan

In Edo-period Japan, all Japanese were obliged by law to “be Buddhists.” Those who did not feature in the “religious enquiry census registers” were assumed to belong to "the Christian heresy" and thereby became subject to arrest and, in some cases, execution. What does “religious identity” mean in such a context? This paper will focus on an incident that occurred in Osaka and Kyoto in 1827, when the shogunal authorities arrested a large group of alleged Christians. The focus of the investigation was on the question of who among the tens of suspects were true Christians, and who were simply misguided victims of those Christians’ guile and sorcery. This presentation will use the large body of documents produced by the investigators to analyse notions of religious (or, rather, heretical) identity in the last decades of the Edo period.

Stefania Travagnin

Identity Network: Concepts and Contexts of ‘Being Buddhist’ in China and Taiwan

How do Chinese scriptures explain the principles at the basis of ‘being Buddhist’? And how, in response, have the Chinese identified their affiliation to Buddhism in the pre-modern and modern time? Do textual prescriptions and ritual performances of the Buddhist identity coincide or differ? And how, in the last century, have the Chinese negotiated the experience of ‘being Buddhist’ with other labels such as ‘being Chinese’ and ‘being Taiwanese’? The paper will address these questions diachronically and synchronically, and contextualize Buddhist identity within a multi-faceted net of identification labels. My study aims to make sense of the dynamics that constitute the Chinese Buddhist identity network, and thus understand religious identity in the tension between national/macro realities and local/micro stories.

Cameron David Warner

Making a Space to Be Buddhist: Context and Articulations of Buddhist Identity in Nepal (2011-2014)

This paper will present recent changes to Buddhist identity in Nepal (2011-2014) based on fieldwork conducted among two groups of Buddhists, a) Tamangs, ethnic minorities in Nepal who define their ethnicity in part on changing, globalized notions of Tibetan Buddhism, and b) Hindu converts to Tibetan Buddhism. When put together, these two groups become contrasting images of the relationship between ethnicity and religious identity. Due to the emphasis on lineage in Tibetan Buddhism, both groups must triangulate their identity in relation to the Tibetan archetypes of their particular lineage, the socio-historical context of Nepal, and increasingly globalized discourses about ideal Buddhist practice.

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Sessions

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Thematic Outline

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