Buddhism in the Modern World

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Tennessee, Knoxville]On: 19 December 2014, At: 01:30Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T3JH, UK

    Ethnos: Journal ofAnthropologyPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/retn20

    Buddhism in the Modern WorldElizabeth Williams-Oerberg aa Aarhus University , DenmarkPublished online: 21 Nov 2012.

    To cite this article: Elizabeth Williams-Oerberg (2012) Buddhism in theModern World, Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, 77:4, 566-569, DOI:10.1080/00141844.2012.691105

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00141844.2012.691105

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • to the mechanisms underlying theacquisition, transmission and represen-tations among individual hunters ofsuch ideas. Is it unlikely, for instance,that a difference prevailed betweenrural- and urban-based hunters percep-tions of their role, or between long-term,core members of the hunters associationand the many newcomers, includingthe anthropologist himself, who sud-denly joined the movement in greatnumbers and throughout the countrywith the approval of state bureaucracy?Leaving such questions unanswered,Hellwegs analytical strategy entailsthe risk of projecting intentions intocore cultural practices, such as rituals ofsacrifice, that probably lie beyond theawareness of the sacrifiers, that is,the hunters, and thereby compromisesthe value of the authors envisaged con-tribution to a social theory of agency.There should be no doubt, however,that Hunting the Ethical State is a mostimportant and distinguished contri-bution to the anthropological study oflocal movements role in times of uncer-tainty and political transformation atstate level.

    Christian K. HjbjergAarhus University

    # 2012 Christian K. Hjbjerg

    David L. McMahan, ed. 2012. Buddhismin the Modern World. London andNew York: Routledge. 329 pp.ISBN: 978-0-415-78015-5

    Buddhism in the Modern World is a verywelcome addition to the burgeoning litera-ture approaching a discussion of Buddhismand Modernity. While the vast majority ofacademic literature addressing Buddhism

    utilizes historical or textual approaches, anincreasing number of researchers are con-sidering Buddhism in its modern contexts,occasionally including an ethnographicapproach in their study. Attempts havebeen made to bring this research togetherunder the rubric of Modern Buddhism(Lopez 2002) or Buddhist Modernism(McMahan 2008) in order to demarcate anew field within Buddhist studies. Accord-ing to McMahan Buddhist Modernismshould be considered a new transnationalgenre of Buddhism. . . [which] is a hybridreligious and cultural form that combinesselected elements of Buddhism with themajor Western discourses and practices ofmodernity. . . (160). This emerging fieldwithin Religious Studies warrants morethorough ethnographic underpinnings,which this volume to a limited degree pro-vides. Nevertheless, the ambitious attemptin this volume to provide a broad coverageof the ways in which Western discoursesand practices of modernity have impactedthe global development of Buddhismduring the past 150 years is a laudableproject and can serve as inspiration fornew ethnographic inquiries into contem-porary Buddhism.

    Although at first glance the volumeappears to be an introductory textbookfor undergraduate students, many of thechapters provide new research andinsightful articles that any person, includ-ing established scholars, students andpractitioners, interested in the ways inwhich Buddhism encounters modernitywill find beneficial. To make the bookmore accessible, each chapter includesnicely demarcated headlined sections,illustrative photos, a summary, discussionpoints and suggestions for furtherreading. The volume is divided into twosections: Buddhism in its GeographicalContexts, which encompasses regional

    ethnos, vol. 77:4, december 2012 (pp. 564 570)

    566 Book Reviews

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  • developments in contemporary Bud-dhism, and Buddhism and the Chal-lenges of Modernity, which highlightscarefully selected thematic issues.

    In the first section each chapteraddresses regional challenges and develop-ments bringing together a comprehensiveoverview of the ways in which Buddhismincorporates modern influences in itsvarious contexts. In reading these chapters,one clearly gains a sense of the remarkablesimilarities in the manner in which Bud-dhism has become transformed in theseregional modern encounters. Schober inher chapter on Modern Buddhist Conjunc-tures in Southeast Asia brings attention tothe rise of a transnational Theravadaidentity as a reaction to modern coloniality,as well as a gradual decline of monasticauthority, an increase in lay authority andthe commodification of Buddhist practices.Berkwitz continues this discussion byaddressing the concurrent local andWestern forces impacting a modernizationof Buddhist practices in Sri Lanka. Transna-tional convergences are also highlighted inBaumanns recapitulation of the develop-ment of European interest in Buddhismthroughout the past two centuries. Someof the reinterpretations of Buddhism, inter-generational challenges, and organizationalissues faced by Buddhists in North Americaare addressed through Numrichs elucida-tion of a fluidity of religious identity (144).And Chilson astutely observes how anunderstandingofBuddhismasa rationalre-ligion which increased its prestige in theWest might actually be harming its dom-estic repute in Japan. On the other hand,an increase in converts to Buddhism inChina, according to Fisher, can be attribu-ted to a general understanding of a decreasein ethics or moral decline.

    Jacoby and Terrones chapter onTibetan and Himalayan Buddhism in this

    section relays the interesting developmentof religious reconstruction in Tibet, includ-ing the rebuilding of monastic institutions,an increase in religious encampments, andthe globalization of Tibetan Buddhism.This chapter, however, seems slightly mis-placed in the collection of regional encoun-ters. Instead of examining Buddhism in aparticular region as is the case in the otherchapters, they seek to describe a particularTibetan and Himalayan Buddhism. Thisattempt brings many unfortunate overlapswith both Fishers chapter on Buddhismin China and Harris chapter in the secondsection on Politics and Nationalism regard-ing the political suppression of religion inChina and Tibet. Even more unfortunate,they merely approach a Buddhism whichis found inTibet and among exile-Tibetans,omitting a poignant discussion on Himala-yan Buddhism and its developments inHimalayan regions such as Nepal, Bhutan,Northeast India (Sikkim, West Bengal, andArunachal Pradesh) and North India(Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, andLadakh).

    A fair degree of repetition is presentthroughout this first section since theseregional encounters and developments didnot occur in isolated pockets. While eachchapter in some way refers to elements ofModern Buddhism, McMahans chapteron Buddhist Modernism might have beenbetter placed as an introductory chapter,which then also could have saved the indi-vidual authors from having to introduceBuddhist Modernist elements themselves.Cross-referencing among the individualchapters would have also aided in tyingthe chapters together and eliminating rep-etition. Moreover, it would have been inter-esting to delve into the inter-relatedness ofthese developments across regions throughmention of pan-Asian Buddhist networkssuch as the regular gatherings of the World

    ethnos, vol. 77:4, december 2012 (pp. 564 570)

    Book Reviews 567

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  • Buddhist SanghaCouncil (est. 1966) and theWorld Fellowship of Buddhists (est. 1950) aswell as various international Buddhist youthorganizations which also might haveimpacted the concurrent development ofBuddhist Modernism.

    Reflections on general trends and par-allel developments in contemporary Bud-dhism is at the center of the secondsection, and it is throughout these the-matic discussions that new and interest-ing research about contemporaryBuddhism is revealed. While the regionaldiscussions in the previous section alsoinclude new research, it is the thematicsection which distinguishes this editedvolume as a necessary reference foranybody attempting to understand Bud-dhism in the contemporary, modernworld. To highlight some among manyof the noteworthy insights conveyed inthis section: Harris reveals the politicaland not always non-violent maneuversin nationalist movements drawing thesupport of monastic Buddhist institutionsthroughout Asia; Keown illuminates howthe depiction of Buddhism as holdingenlightened views on contemporaryissues does not necessarily coincide withevidence from traditional (textual)sources; Payne presents an intriguingdynamically interconnected religio-cul-tural system of Buddhist Modernism,psychotherapy and modern occultism asa powerful ideological structure that hasbeen naturalized by the reinforcing struc-tures of consumerism (235, 236); Choexplains how modern Buddhist move-ments have aided efforts to reconcile thedivide between religion and sciencethrough an emphasis on secular or uni-versal aims rather than cultural or insti-tutional practices; and Mitchells finalchapter provides a welcome discussionof media and popular culture highlighting

    possible impacts of capitalism and thecommodification of Buddhism.

    If there is something missing in thebook it would be a concluding chapteror a more extensive introductorychapter which brings together the rich-ness of discussions addressed in the indi-vidual chapters. Perhaps also a discussionof the impact of the contemporary aca-demic study of Buddhism is warrantedafter the repeated mention of theimpacts of historical academic researchon current ideological constructions ofBuddhism. Since this edited volume hasthe potential to act as an importantresource gathering intriguing and in-depth information about Buddhism inits regional and thematic variants, amore thorough index would prove to beinvaluable. While four other volumeshave been published previously with thesame title (Saunders 1922; Dumoulin andMoraldo 1976; Heine and Prebish 2003;Jatava 2007) this merely highlights thefelt need to expand research approachingBuddhism and Modernity. McMahansBuddhism in the Modern World farexceeds the expectations one wouldhave from such an anthology and canbe highly recommended to anyoneinterested in Buddhism today, students,scholars and practitioners alike.

    Elizabeth Williams-OerbergAarhus University

    Denmark# 2012 Elizabeth Williams-Oerberg

    ReferencesDumoulin, Heinrich & John C. Maraldo,

    (eds). 1976. Buddhism in the ModernWorld, pp.368. London: Collier Mac-millan Publishers.

    Heine, Steven & Charles S. Prebish, (eds).2003. Buddhism in the Modern World :

    ethnos, vol. 77:4, december 2012 (pp. 564 570)

    568 Book Reviews

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  • Adaptations of an Ancient Tradition,pp.287. Cary, NC: Oxford UniversityPress.

    Jatava, D. R. 2007. Buddhism in ModernWorld, pp.308. Jaipur, IND: GlobalMedia.

    Lopez, Jr & S. Donald, (eds). 2002. AModern Buddhist Bible: Essential Read-ings from East and West, pp.266.Boston: Beacon Press.

    McMahan, David L. 2008. The Making ofBuddhist Modernism, pp.299.New York: Oxford University Press.

    Saunders, K. J. 1922. Buddhism in theModern World, pp.83. London,New York and Toronto: Society forPromoting Christian Knowledge;The Macmillan Company.

    Winnifred Brown-Glaude. 2011. Higglersin Kingston: Womens Informal Work inJamaica. Nashville: Vanderbilt UniversityPress. 1225 pp.

    Higglers in Kingston: Womens InformalWork in Jamaica by Winnifred Brown-Glaude is a rich and multi-layered bookthat explores the world of lower-classblack womens work in Jamaicas informaleconomy. The author argues that rep-resentations of higglers and their bodiesreveal the co-construction of race, classand gender as they affect Jamaicanwomens work experiences in the infor-mal economy and help recreate thesocial and spatial order of Kingston.

    The author uses the theoretical per-spective of embodied intersectionality tounderstand the experiences of thesefemale micro-entrepreneurs. BecauseJamaica is strongly stratified by race,social class and gender, higglers bodiesare embedded in different hierarchies of

    power, which these women not onlyexperience but also contest. Althoughgender has been a popular topic of analy-sis, Brown-Glaude believes that issues ofclass and race are equally important toexamine in shaping the identity of third-world women.

    The author successfully shows howcity space in Kingston, Jamaica, is ima-gined and how the bodies of higglerswho occupy this space are considered tobe deviant, vulgar and unfeminine. Blackfemale bodies that occupy public space,which has been considered the rightfuldomain of white men since the colonialera in Jamaica, are out of place. The infor-mal economy in which these women par-ticipate is thought of as black, female andillegitimate, whereas the formal economyis considered to be a white, masculinespace. Understanding womens bodiesand the city space of Kingston, Jamaica,are situated at the heart of Brown-Glaudes work.

    From an historical perspective, theauthor...

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