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Presented as part of a panel on Shin Buddhism in the west at the XIV Biennial meeting of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies, this paper is a more reasoned, researched, and well-articulated version of some themes with which my long-time readers will be familiar: Orientalism, the dumbing-down of Buddhism, and the politics of representation.
I did not actually read this paper. Unfortunately, I was unable to get to Kyoto this year, but I understand that it was read by Henry Adams in my stead and that the panel was a success. Thanks to Daniel Friedrich for putting it all together.
This paper problematizes representations of Buddhism in (Western) pop-culture in two separate but related ways. First, I argue that these representations are little more than a continuation of a centuries-long project of defining the Oriental “other” in ways that make Asian culture safe and palatable for Western consumers. Second, by defining Buddhisms and Buddhists in non-threatening ways, these representations perpetuate certain stereotypes about Buddhism that do little to advance the needs of Buddhist communities and, ultimately, create the false notion that “all Buddhisms look alike.”