The End of American Buddhism

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Presented to the Buddhism in the West Consultation, bright and early at nine o’clock on Saturday, November 1, at the American Academy of Religion national meeting in Chicago (sweet home, Chicago). The paper is mixture of stuff from my dissertation and my (fingers crossed) first book. Enjoy!

Abstract: This paper seeks to bypass the shortcomings of traditional Buddhist studies scholarship, vis-à-vis American Buddhism, by reframing the tradition as a transnational and global phenomenon. Drawing on both historical precedents and contemporary examples of transnationalism, I argue that American Buddhisms are best understood as local variations on the theme of Buddhism as a global, “world religion.” This framework presents a formidable challenge to both American Buddhist studies and Buddhist studies more generally, but one that will ultimately only enhance our understandings of modern Buddhist traditions.

© 2008 by Scott A. Mitchell

6 thoughts on “The End of American Buddhism

  1. I think the paper was received relatively well. Always hard to tell, but the Buddhism in the West area of Buddhist studies seems to be headed in this general direction. I may be on to something.

  2. David McMahan from Franklin and Marshall College (in Pennsylvania?) just published a book on Buddhist modernism which, I’m told, is relevant. Hope to read that one soon.

    Paul David Numrich (or is it David Paul?) has done a lot of good work on American Buddhism (not all of which I agree with) and just edited a book on the topic — a book that costs over a 100 bucks. Waiting for the soft-cover and/or the GTU to purchase it.

    Helen Baroni, Jocelyn Newsome, and Ann Gleig were all on the same panel and are all related, Newsome being the closest to my work. (Though only Baroni is post-doc, so I don’t know if the others have published.)

    And of course Jeff Wilson. He’s got a book coming out soon from Oxford Press.

    And of course me. I’m actually teaching a course on all this stuff in the spring. (Go me!)

    As for the B in the W consultation, consultations are reviewed generally after three years at the AAR, and this was our second. We actually had one panel and a second, co-sponsored panel this year, and a lot of ideas were bounced around for next year’s AAR. My guess is that it will have to be reviewed at that point as to whether it moves forward or not, but I’m not sure where we’re at with all that. (Perhaps if Jeff Wilson is reading, he could chime in?)

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