Chapter 15: When it Gets Crowded under the Umbrella: An Examination of Scholarly Categorisation of Buddhist Communities in the United States

The Insider/Outsider Debate - New Perspectives in the Study of Religion - George D. Chryssides

Claire Miller Skriletz [+-]
Independent Scholar
Claire Miller Skriletz has an undergraduate degree from Drew University (2002) and a Master's degree in Religious Studies from the University of Colorado Boulder (2012). Claire's research interests are broad and multi-disciplinary, including gender and feminist studies of religion, religions in/of Japan, the ethnographic study of religious communities in the United States, and Buddhist communities in the West. Her MA thesis examined the insufficiency of existing theoretical models for the study of Buddhism in the United States, particularly as it applies to the Buddhist Churches of America. She has presented papers looking at gender and representation in The Book of Margery Kempe (Rocky Mountain-Great Plains Regional AAR 2013), and considering gender and ethics in the Dhammapada Commentary, a collection of early Buddhist morality tales (International Jain Conference, 2013). Her publications also include reviews of Reiko Ohnuma's Ties That Bind: Maternal Imagery and Discourse in Indian Buddhism in Religion and Gender 4:1 (2014), and Joseph Cheah's Race and Religion in American Buddhism: White Supremacy and Immigrant Adaptation in Nova Religio 18:1 (August 2014).

Description

This essay critiques the existing binary categories applied to Buddhist communities in the United States, those of ethnic and convert. First, a short evaluation of the term ethnic is offered, followed by an in-depth analysis of the prevalent models of categorization in use by scholars of Religious Studies and Buddhist Studies. As a result of the shortcomings of the available models, this essay offers a new model for researching and writing about Buddhist communities in the U.S., culturally-informed Buddhisms. The goals of the culturally-informed Buddhisms model are: first, to create an adaptable and specific methodology and terminology for scholars to use when researching communities; second, an approach which accounts for change over time and space; third, to seek an end to the essentialised scholarly assumptions regarding the ethnic and racial heritages of community members; and finally, to re-orient the discussion to a nuanced accounting of the various cultural strands that have influenced and shaped the diverse Buddhist communities thriving in the United States. These goals in turn question the notion of a monolithic, homogeneous ‘Buddhism,’ which is reflected in the author’s use of Buddhisms.

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Citation

Skriletz, Claire. Chapter 15: When it Gets Crowded under the Umbrella: An Examination of Scholarly Categorisation of Buddhist Communities in the United States. The Insider/Outsider Debate - New Perspectives in the Study of Religion. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Oct 2019. ISBN 9781781793442. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=27456. Date accessed: 23 May 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.27456. Oct 2019

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