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  • Introduction: New Roads in Theravada Buddhist Studies

    Kaloyanides, Alexandra; Walker, Trent (Society for the Study of Global Buddhism, 2021-05-21)
    This special focus section celebrates the twenty-fifth anniversary of Charles Hallisey’s groundbreaking 1995 essay, “Roads Taken and Not Taken in the Study of Theravāda Buddhism,” which offered both an incisive reassessment of the history of Theravada studies and a generative blueprint for its future. Hallisey’s introduction of the term “intercultural mimesis” and his emphasis on the local production of meaning resonated across Buddhist studies and beyond, shaping an entire generation of scholarship on South and Southeast Asia. This introductory essay first surveys “Roads Taken and Not Taken” and its impact on Theravada studies over the past quarter-century. We then explore how junior scholars, including the three authors whose essays are featured in this section, take Hallisey’s prescriptions in new directions. In closing, we reflect on emerging themes and voices in Theravada studies not represented here and where the field may be headed over the next quarter century.
  • #BuddhistCultureWars: BuddhaBros, Alt-Right Dharma, and Snowflake Sanghas

    Gleig, Ann; Artinger, Brenna (Society for the Study of Global Buddhism, 2021-05-10)
    While often associated with a liberal demographic, the increasing online visibility of rhetoric such as “snowflakes,” “politically correct,” “postmodern identity politics,” and “cultural Marxism” demonstrates the presence of right-wing sentiments and populations in American convert Buddhism. This article situates these sentiments largely as a reaction to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in these communities. We chart this backlash across a broad right-wing spectrum that spans from “reactionary centrism” to the alt-right. We illuminate the ways in which participants both de-legitimate DEI as political rather than Buddhist and naturalize their own position as Buddhist rather than political. Next, we show how American convert Buddhist lineages have become a site of the “culture wars,” longstanding clashes between religious conservatives and progressives, that are playing out in multiple contexts across the US. Finally, we locate these reactionary right-wing forms of American Buddhism in relationship to modern and postmodern forms of global Buddhism.
  • A Spiritual Evolutionism: Lü Cheng, Aesthetic Revolution, and the Rise of a Buddhism-Inflected Social Ontology in Modern China

    Zu, Jessica Xiaomin (Society for the Study of Global Buddhism, 2021-05-10)
    This study examines the early career of the renowned Buddhologist Lü Cheng as an aspiring revolutionary. My findings reveal that Lü’s rhetoric of “aesthetic revolution” both catapulted him into the center of the New Culture Movement and popularized a Buddhist idealism—Yogācāra (consciousness-only school)—among thinkers who sought alternatives social theories.Lü aimed to refute social Darwinism and scientific materialism, which portray humans as mechanized individuals bereft of moral agency. He theorized an anti-realist social ontology, i.e., a social oneness grounded in intersubjective resonances, from which subjective interiority and objective exteriority arise.Lü turned to Buddhism to further his revolution. Buddhist soteriology supplied powerful tools for theorizing the social: The doctrine of no-self refuted philosophical solipsism and curtailed individualism; dependent-origination refashioned social evolution as collective spiritual progress. Lü’s spiritual-evolutionism-cum-social-ontology broadens the field of Buddhist philosophy that has a long-standing blind spot on social philosophies developed in the Global South.
  • Introduction: Buddhism and Economics

    Williams-Oerberg, Elizabeth (Society for the Study of Global Buddhism, 2019-08-20)
    Throughout this introductory article, I bring attention to the important distinction between the field of Buddhist Economics and the field of Buddhism and Economics. Rather than drawing up normative frameworks for how one should engage economically, the authors in this special issue offer new theoretical frameworks for conceptualizing how Buddhists necessarily do engage economically. First, I provide a brief overview of the field of religion and economics, and the burgeoning field of Buddhism and Economics more generally. I then narrow in on the innovative theoretical frameworks presented in this special issue, including important discussions as to the impact of Max Weber, along with considering merit and the contingent conjunctures within which Buddhists negotiate economic contexts. The contributing authors in this special issue emphasize not only how Buddhists necessarily engage with the economy, but also how Buddhist economic exchanges influence as well as are influenced by the surrounding socio-economic environment. I conclude by emphasizing the importance of considering economic relations when examining contemporary Buddhist contexts.
  • An Entangled Relationship: A Lived Religion Approach to Theravāda Buddhism and Economics

    Schedneck, Brooke (Society for the Study of Global Buddhism, 2019-08-20)
    From the perspectives of lived practices of Buddhists, Theravāda Buddhism and economics have a deeply intertwined relationship. My proposed theoretical method for the study of Buddhism and economics delineates two approaches: the doctrinal approach of Max Weber and a modified lived religion approach. The doctrinal approach, which focuses on Buddhist texts and the early monastic life, treats anything outside of a posited “pure Buddhism,” as a transformation of the “original” teachings into something new and different. The remnants of this idea of transformation can be seen in studies of Theravāda Buddhism, causing economic practices involving Buddhist monks to be analyzed as a deviation from the Buddha’s teachings. I propose moving beyond early Buddhism and text-based studies as a baseline for comparison by offering as an alternative a modified version of the lived religion method of Meredith McGuire. My theoretical modifications to this approach allow us to think about lived religion in the Theravāda Buddhist context. I recommend that the cultural logic of Theravāda Buddhism, in particular the economy of merit and contingent conjunctures of engagements with the market, need to be considered in order to avoid understanding Buddhist connections with the economy as a transformation of Buddhist doctrine.

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