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Buddhism Colonialism and Postcolonialism
by
Anne Blackburn

Introduction

The study of colonial and postcolonial histories in relation to Buddhism and the use of postcolonial theory by scholars of Buddhism are fairly recent developments within the field of Buddhist studies and its allied disciplines of history, anthropology, and art history. Many of these approaches to the study of Buddhism were initially influenced by the work of Edward Said and related postcolonial and post-Orientalist studies of the way forms of knowledge and practice were reshaped in the context of colonial administrative projects. In this regard, some scholars of Buddhism took inspiration in particular from studies of how Hinduism, and to a lesser extent Islam, were “imagined” as part of colonial-period engagements in Asia. In addition, scholars of Buddhism were sometimes struck by the importance of Buddhist-inspired symbols, discourse, and institutional influence to anticolonial and nationalist projects and sought to document and analyze these phenomena. Since the early 1990s, scholars of Buddhism have worked on problems related to colonialism and postcolonialism from what may be conceived as four broad directions. In the first place, the history of the academic study of Buddhism has been investigated in relation to its roots in European colonial and missionary projects that first brought knowledge of Buddhists and their practices to the attention of Euro-American scholars of religion. Second, scholars have documented and analyzed the textual orientation of the first several generations of work in Buddhist studies, sometimes relating this textual emphasis to the religious orientation of non-Buddhist colonial scholars of Buddhism, and examining the ways in which a focus on the study of authoritative Buddhist texts led to historically inexact and essentialist treatments of Buddhist communities and their practices. A third body of scholarship examines the impact of colonial-period social and technological changes on the institutional, textual, and ritual lives of Buddhists, and the ways in which Buddhist teachers, institutions, and practices also became linked to anticolonial and nationalist activism and political life. All of these perspectives emphasize the relationship between European colonial contexts and those of European colonies in Asia. More recently, scholars of Buddhism have begun to consider intra-Asian and intra-Buddhist colonialism, as well as the networks between Asian Buddhist communities that deepened and flourished during the heyday of European colonial rule in Asia.

General Overviews

There are no textbooks focused solely on Buddhism and colonialism and/or postcolonialism. However, several volumes contain valuable discussions of these topics. Berkwitz 2006 contains essays treating all parts of the Asian Buddhist world, focused primarily on Buddhist development in the contexts of colonization and modernization. Gombrich 2006, Swearer 2010, and Robinson, et al. 1997 provide some useful framing comments; colonialism is most central to the account in Gombrich 2006. Little is available in the way of anthological treatments of Buddhist texts from colonial and postcolonial contexts. Lopez 2002 provides an interesting point of departure for thinking about the way the study and practice of Buddhism in Europe and America were shaped by Asian Buddhists speaking to “the West.”

  • Berkwitz, Stephen C., ed. Buddhism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006.

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    Includes substantial essays by a new generation of scholars, with a particular focus on modernization and colonialism.

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  • Gombrich, Richard F. Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 2006.

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    A revised edition of a classic text, focused considerably on Sri Lanka. Draws on the work of Obeyesekere and Malalgoda to present a view of Sri Lankan Buddhism in the context of colonialism that emphasizes its “Protestant Buddhist” character.

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  • Lopez, Donald S., Jr. A Modern Buddhist Bible: Essential Readings from East and West. Boston: Beacon, 2002.

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    A stimulating collection of readings from Buddhist thinkers active in the 19th and 20th centuries, in Asia, America, and Europe. This anthology offers voices from colonizing and colonized Buddhist arenas, and is especially strong as a resource for thinking about which interpretations of Buddhist textuality and history were exported from Asia to Euro-America.

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  • Robinson, Richard H., and Willard L. Johnson. The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction. Assisted by Sandra A. Wawrytko and Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1997.

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    An ambitious high-level historical treatment with a strong bibliography. Contains brief references to 19th- and 20th-century colonial contexts, occupations, and nationalist movements.

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  • Swearer, Donald K. The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia. 2d ed. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010.

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    A revised edition of a classic text, particularly useful as an introduction to 20th- and 21st-century Thai Buddhism. In this context, see particularly chapter 2, which references Burma, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka as well as Thailand.

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Reference Works

Although there are no reference works focused solely on Buddhism in relation to colonialism and postcolonialism, the following works contain useful short entries and bibliographic guidance. The bibliographic sections in Buswell 2004 and Jones 2005 will be of particular interest for information about Buddhist scholars and ritual specialists active during colonial and early nationalist periods. Lopez 2005 contains valuable theoretical introductions and bibliography.

  • Buswell, Robert E., Jr. ed. Encyclopedia of Buddhism. 2 vols. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004.

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    In this context, see especially the entries under the headings “Colonialism and Buddhism,” “Biographies,” “Buddhism and Christianity,” and “Europe and the United States.”

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  • Jones, E. Lindsay, ed. Encyclopedia of Religion. 15 vols. 2d ed. Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005.

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    Accessible articles by leading scholars. In this context, see especially the entries for the Pali Text Society. Also available online via select university library catalogs.

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  • Lopez, Donald S., Jr., ed. Critical Terms for the Study of Buddhism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

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    Well-conceived, cutting-edge treatments of key terms and themes related to Buddhist social and institutional life. In this context, see particularly the entries on history, power, and modernity.

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Missionary and Other Colonial Sources

There are interesting accounts of Buddhist texts, practices, and institutions contained in the documents produced by missionaries and other colonial-period travelers and administrators. Such accounts must be read carefully, of course, because their authors often had a limited understanding of Buddhism and a negative impression of non-Christian and nonwhite cultural contexts. However, the best of these accounts offers valuable clues for the reconstruction of Buddhist contexts in the early modern and modern periods. For instance, Hardy 1967 and Dickson 1884 provide information about Ceylonese (Sri Lankan) textual and ritual practice, respectively, as do Aymonier 1894–1895 on Laos, Giran 1912 on Vietnam, and Wells 1939 on Thai Buddhist ritual. Early volumes of the Bulletin de l’École Française d’Extrême-Orient and the Journal of the Pali Text Society published some of the fruits of colonial scholarship on Buddhism, whereas the studies of Rhys Davids (such as Rhys Davids 1894) are influenced by his personal acquaintance with Ceylonese Buddhism as well as the study of Pali texts. Girardot 2002 provides an extremely rich account of Legge’s 19th-century work on Chinese religions. See also Amstutz 1997 (cited under Japan).

Post-Orientalism

Within the fields of Buddhist studies and Asian studies, scholars interested in religion have responded to Edward Said’s powerful and controversial account of how knowledge of the “not-West” or “Orient” was forged in the context of European colonial projects (Said 1978). Although Said’s understanding of Buddhism was quite limited, his wider claims about the formation of knowledge of the “not-West” have been of considerable interest to scholars of Buddhism, generating productive, and sometimes critical, rejoinder. Lopez 1995 contains essays from scholars of Buddhism in several Asian regions addressing the implications of Said’s arguments for the discipline of Buddhist studies. Many of those essays have made a substantial impact on the field, including Hallisey 1995 in particular. Blackburn 2001, (cited under Sri Lanka) is also an explicit response to Said 1978 and ensuing conversations in South Asian studies. Within the wider field of South Asian studies and related area-studies disciplines, Inden 1990 exerted an immense impact, further stimulating scholarly attention to the ways in which colonial forms of knowledge resulted in essentialist and romantic conceptions of Asian religions. King 1999 pursues this line of analysis to good effect with respect to both Buddhism and Hinduism. Almond 1988 and Lopez 1995 develop the implications of post-Orientalist criticism for the study of specific Buddhist schools and traditions. Although focused on India and religions other than Buddhism, Veer 2001 provides an important corrective to the first generation of post-Orientalist scholarship on Asian religions by emphasizing how new colonial forms of knowledge and practices shaped metropolitan colonial cultures. Snodgrass 2007 joins Hallisey 1995 in contemplating the intersection of local Buddhist and foreign scholarly ideas in British colonial-era Buddhist-studies scholarship.

  • Almond, Philip C. The British Discovery of Buddhism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

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    A stimulating account of an early phase of scholarship on Buddhism, with an emphasis on the religious and cultural context within which the field’s textual emphases developed, and the impact of these emphases on Asian Buddhist traditions. Usefully read in conjunction with Hallisey 1995.

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  • Hallisey, Charles. “Roads Taken and Not Taken in the Study of Theravāda Buddhism.” In Curators of the Buddha. Edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

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    A deservedly influential essay that explores the mutually constitutive engagement of southern Asian Buddhists and Orientalist scholars. Focused on Sri Lanka and Thailand.

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  • Inden, Ronald B. Imagining India. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990.

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    Chapters 1–3 are most important in this context, for an account of the conceptual underpinnings of Indology as well as scholarly approaches to caste, Hinduism, and Indian religious mentality.

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  • King, Richard. Orientalism and Religion: Post Colonial Theory, India and the “Mystic East.” London: Routledge, 1999.

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    A theoretically and historically invigorating exploration of early studies of South Asian religions from the perspective of post-Orientalist and postcolonial criticism.

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  • Lopez, Donald S., Jr., ed. Curators of the Buddha: The Story of Buddhism under Colonialism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

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    A landmark book in postcolonial studies of Buddhism that contains essays addressing the colonial and postcolonial character of scholarship on Buddhism across the Asian Buddhist world.

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  • Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon, 1978.

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    A now classic account of how knowledge of the “not-West” or “Orient” was forged in the context of European colonial projects, which stimulated a critical investigation of how colonial politics and forms of knowledge shaped and constrained several disciplines, including comparative literature, area studies, anthropology, and religious studies.

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  • Snodgrass, Judith. “Defining Modern Buddhism: Mr. and Mrs. Rhys Davids and the Pāli Text Society.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 27.1 (2007):186–202.

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    An important article that explores the interaction between Pali Text Society scholars and Asian Buddhist intellectuals in the late-19th- and early-20th-century history of the Buddhist-studies discipline. Contains useful references to Burmese Buddhist intellectuals.

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  • Veer, Peter van der. Imperial Encounters: Religion and Modernity in India and Britain. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

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    A lean but thought-provoking book emphasizing that religion and other aspects of modern culture took shape in colonizing Britain itself as they were produced within her colonies.

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Network Histories

In recent years, scholars of colonial-era Buddhism have explored the ways in which intra-Asian, as well as Asian-European and Asian-American, flows and networks characteristic of the colonial period reshaped the character of Buddhist practice and intellectual and institutional life. Such studies have provided one way to extricate the study of Buddhism and colonialism from models that privilege European/colonial agency and flatten the local historical record. Blackburn 2010 and Hansen 2007 place considerable emphasis on intra-Asian Buddhist networks in the southern Asian region, and in doing so reveal that British and French colonial influences intersected with those from other Asian Buddhist locations and local political projects in reshaping colonial-period Buddhism in Cambodia and Sri Lanka. Edwards 2007 and Hansen 2007 examine roots of Cambodian modernist and nationalist activities in French Indochina. Whereas Hansen foregrounds textual practice and monastic debate, Edwards highlights material culture and the management of heritage, with a greater focus on connections between France and Cambodia than within the Asian Buddhist world. Jaffe 2004 reveals the depth of 19th- and 20th-century Japanese interest in southern Asian sites, and the intersection of Orientalism and Japanese pan-Asianism. Trevithick 2007 is a useful accompaniment to all these studies, providing an account of how a variety of colonial-period Buddhist and non-Buddhist projects coalesced around the celebrated Buddhist pilgrimage site of Bodh Gaya. Huber 2008 provides a useful Himalayan-Indic perspective on the way that Buddhist geographies and pilgrimage networks have changed across time, partly in the context of new colonial-period infrastructure.

  • Blackburn, Anne M. Locations of Buddhism: Colonialism and Modernity in Sri Lanka. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

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    Treats southern Asian Buddhist networks in a time of intensifying colonial presence and religious debate, and argues for the continued importance of certain precolonial forms of knowledge and social strategy.

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  • Edwards, Penny. Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation, 1860–1945. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007.

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    A study of the development of cultural nationalism in French colonial Cambodia that includes a stimulating treatment of colonial-period changes in Buddhist textuality and the treatment of religious sites and monuments.

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  • Frost, Mark. “‘Wider Opportunities’: Religious Revival, Nationalist Awakening and the Global Dimension in Colombo, 1870–1920.” Modern Asian Studies 36.4 (2002): 937–967.

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    An important article that anticipates the author’s forthcoming book, which connects the study of nationalism and Asian Buddhist revival movements to the growing literature on colonial port cities and maritime networks.

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  • Hansen, Anne R. How to Behave: Buddhism and Modernity in Colonial Cambodia, 1860–1930. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007.

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    An account of Cambodian-Thai Buddhist contacts during the French colonial period, and an exploration of what constitutes a “modernist” expression of Buddhism.

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  • Huber, Toni. The Holy Land Reborn: Pilgrimage and the Tibetan Reinvention of Buddhist India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

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    An engaging and revealing study of Tibetan Buddhist ritual geographies. Changes in political circumstances, infrastructure, and flows of knowledge within Indian and Himalayan worlds altered the ways in which Tibetan Buddhists understood the geography of “early Buddhism” and desirable pilgrimage.

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  • Jaffe, Richard. “Seeking Śākyamuni: Travel and the Reconstruction of Japanese Buddhism.” Journal of Japanese Studies 30.1 (2004): 65–96.

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    A fascinating article that anticipates the author’s forthcoming book on Japanese interests in southern Asian textual and material culture associated with “early Buddhism.” Reveals the intersection of Orientalism, pan-Asianism, and Japanese Buddhist institutional developments.

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  • Trevithick, Alan. The Revival of Buddhist Pilgrimage at Bodh Gaya (1811–1949): Anagarika Dharmapala and the Mahabodhi Temple. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2007.

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    A detailed account of the joining of Asian Buddhist interests at the pilgrimage site of Bodh Gaya, which focuses on local Asian aims, British colonial concerns, and the impact of Euro-American conceptions of Buddhism and religion on Asian Buddhist practice.

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Burma

Studies of Burmese Buddhist practice and institutional life within the context of colonialism are burgeoning, with thoughtful work composed at the intersection of religious studies, Buddhist studies, and Southeast Asian history and historical anthropology. Mendelson 1975 is an old and classic source, included here primarily for its bibliography. Schober 2008 provides a valuable survey of shifting interpretations of Burmese Buddhism from the colonial period to the present. Ikeya 2006 explores the intersection of gender and Buddhism in an anticolonial context. Schober 2007 and Turner 2009 discuss shifting understandings of Buddhist identity and practice within the context of British colonial rule with a focus on education, as does Dhammasami 2004, which develops a substantial precolonial comparison. Kirichenko 2009 addresses the impact of forms of discourse associated with the comparative and academic study of religion.

  • Dhammasami, Khammai. “Between Idealism and Pragmatism: A Study of Monastic Education in Burma and Thailand from the Seventeenth Century to the Present.” PhD diss., Oxford University, 2004.

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    Explores the relationship between the monarchy, state, and Buddhist education as manifested in shifting curricula and examination practices.

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  • Ikeya, Chie. “Gender, History, and Modernity: Representing Women in 20th-Century Colonial Burma.” PhD diss., Cornell University, 2006.

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    Contains interesting references to the ways in which an emergent Buddhist nationalist discourse intersected with Burmese reflections on desirable womanhood and public dress.

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  • Kirichenko, Alexey. “From Thathanadaw to Theravāda Buddhism: Constructions of Religion and Religious Identity in Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Myanmar.” In Casting Faiths: Imperialism and the Transformation of Religion in East and Southeast Asia. Edited by Thomas David Dubois, 23–45. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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    A clear account of how the terms “religion” and “Buddhism” were introduced into usage within Burma during the colonial period and reshaped the repertoire from which local identities were conceived.

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  • Mendelson, E. Michael. Sangha and State in Burma: A Study of Monastic Sectarianism and Leadership. Edited by John P. Ferguson. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1975.

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    Although dated, this remains a useful source for work on 20th-century Burmese Buddhist politics, in part because of references to Burmese sources.

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  • Schober, Juliane. “Colonial Knowledge and Buddhist Education in Burma.” In Buddhism, Power, and Political Order in Theravada Buddhist Asia. Edited by Ian Harris, 52–70. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2007.

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    An account of the impact of British colonialism on Burmese Buddhist education from one of the leading scholars on Burmese Buddhism.

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  • Schober, Juliane. “Communities of Interpretation in the Study of Religion in Burma.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 39.2 (2008): 255–268.

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    A valuable survey of shifting interpretations of Burmese Buddhism from the colonial period to the present which includes reference to the newest work in the field.

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  • Turner, Alicia Marie. “Buddhism, Colonialism and the Boundaries of Religion: Theravada Buddhism in Burma, 1885–1920.” PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2009.

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    Discusses the impact of colonial projects on education and conceptions of religion in Burma, as well as the ways in which new notions of education and community took root in Buddhist associations responding to colonial rule.

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Cambodia

There remain relatively few studies on Cambodian Buddhism in relation to colonialism, but recent publications indicate exciting new directions for research. Hansen 2007 and Edwards 2007 both examine reformulations of Buddhist learning, practice, and symbolism under French colonial rule. Harris 2005, while especially good on events of the later 20th century, provides an accessible introduction to the earlier colonial context. Bizot 1976 argues that important aspects of earlier Khmer Buddhist ritual practice were sidelined when French colonial policy on Buddhism favored a relatively recent “reform” monastic order imported from Siam.

  • Bizot, F. Le figuier à cinq branches. Recherches sur le bouddhisme khmer 1. Paris: Publications de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient, 1976.

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    In this context, see especially the author’s treatment of the relationship between the Mahānikāy and the Dhammayutikanikāy schools, French colonial support for the latter, and the ensuing impact on Cambodian ritual practice.

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  • Edwards, Penny. Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation, 1860–1945. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007.

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    A study of the development of cultural nationalism in French colonial Cambodia and its later life during the regime of Pol Pot. Creative in its discussion of monuments and visual culture.

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  • Hansen, Anne R. How to Behave: Buddhism and Modernity in Colonial Cambodia, 1860–1930. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007.

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    An innovative and thoughtful study of the conjoined Asian and French influences on Buddhist modernism in Cambodia, with a detailed treatment of Siamese-Cambodian Buddhist networks.

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  • Harris, Ian. Cambodian Buddhism: History and Practice. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005.

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    A valuable summary and point of departure for the study of 20th-century Cambodian Buddhism seen in relation to rapidly changing political circumstances.

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China/Taiwan

In the last several decades, new historiographic treatments of nationalism and colonialism have emerged that make more room for the study of colonial-period Buddhism among the cultural projects and experiences of colonization and occupation. Girardot 2002 provides a richly contextualized account of colonial-period missionary engagement with Chinese Buddhism and other Chinese religions. Jones 1999 develops a broad history of Buddhism in Taiwan, including a substantial section on Buddhist-colonial engagement. Yamamura 2006 examines the place of religion and ancient history in the ideologies that informed Manchurian colonization. Sources on Tibetan Buddhism under Chinese rule are relevant to the study of China as colonizer and colonized. Goldstein and Kapstein 1998 contains valuable essays on Tibetan Buddhist renewal in Tibet, whereas Gayley 2009 provides rich access to religious texts and letters composed by Tibetan Buddhists during the tumultuous 20th century. See also Harootunian 1988 (cited under Japan).

  • Gayley, Antonia Hollis. “Agency and the Rhetoric of Destiny: Narrating the Buddhist Revival in the Lives and Letters of Khandro Lhamo (1938–2002) and Namtrul Jigme Phuntsok (1944–).” PhD diss., Harvard University, 2009.

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    A thoughtful work on trauma and Tibetan Buddhism, containing translations of important 20th-century Tibetan Buddhist hagiographies and letters.

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  • Girardot, Norman J. The Victorian Translation of China: James Legge’s Oriental Pilgrimage. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

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    A rich and detailed treatment of a major 19th-century missionary-scholar of Chinese religions, attentive to wider colonial-missionary currents in Asia as well as Victorian religious and intellectual context.

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  • Goldstein, Melvyn C., and Matthew T. Kapstein, eds. Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival and Cultural Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

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    Contains a fascinating set of essays on Tibetan Buddhist institutions and practice in Chinese-occupied Tibet, focusing on the post-1978 period of greater Chinese openness to Buddhist religious practice.

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  • Jones, Charles Brewer. Buddhism in Taiwan: Religion and the State, 1660–1990. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

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    A classic resource for an understudied topic. In this context, see especially Part 2 on the Japanese colonial occupation of Taiwan.

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  • Yamamura, Shin’ichi. Manchuria under Japanese Dominion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

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    An examination of Japanese state building in Manchuria, both in terms of colonial and occupation activities on the ground and utopian, nativist notions of culture that informed some Japanese supporters.

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Japan

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, new historiographic treatments of Japanese nationalism and colonialism have emerged that make considerable room for the study of colonial-period Buddhism as part of the cultural projects and experiences of colonization and occupation. Harootunian 1988 provides a deep Japanese context for nativist ideology and Chinese-Japanese cultural tension. Ketelaar 1990 and Ketelaar 1991 focus more specifically on the 19th- and 20th-century place of Buddhist studies and political incorporations of Buddhism within increasingly expansive Japanese international politics. Jaffe 2004 joins Ketalaar 1991 the ways in which Japanese participation in the academic and clerical study of Buddhism developed within the context of wider European colonial and Orientalist projects, whereas Snodgrass 2003 focuses on the expression of Meiji-revival Buddhism in the political and religious context of the 19th-century World’s Parliament of Religions. Yamamura 2006 brings attention to the religious dimension of Manchurian colonial ideology. Faure 1993 and Sharf 1995 address the colonial, missionary, and nationalist contexts for the development of modern Chan/Zen Buddhism and its exportation to Euro-America. Amstutz 1997 provides similar background on Pure Land Buddhism, set against a discussion of modernization and Buddhism.

  • Amstutz, Galen. Interpreting Amida: History and Orientalism in the Study of Pure Land Buddhism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

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    Much attention has been paid to Chan/Zen Buddhism and the ways in which it was interpreted and adopted outside Japan in the contexts of colonialism and Orientalism. This is a useful study of such processes in relation to Pure Land Buddhism. The appendix contains missionary documents from the 19th and 20th centuries, providing a useful vantage point from which to consider European Christian conceptions of Pure Land traditions and practices.

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  • Faure, Bernard. Chan Insights and Oversights: An Epistemological Critique of the Chan Tradition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.

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    Includes a valuable section examining the history of essentialist and Orientalist interpretations of Chan/Zen Buddhism, including colonial-period missionary activities.

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  • Harootunian, Harry D. Things Seen and Unseen: Discourse and Ideology in Tokugawa Nativism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

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    A deservedly influential study of the 18th-century constitution of Japanese “nativism” in reaction to Chinese cultural influence. Religion formed part of new notions of authenticity, drawn into regional political processes including later Japanese imperialism.

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  • Jaffe, Richard. “Seeking Śākyamuni: Travel and the Reconstruction of Japanese Buddhism.” Journal of Japanese Studies 30.1 (2004): 65–96.

    DOI: 10.1353/jjs.2004.0019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A fascinating article that anticipates the author’s forthcoming book on Japanese interests in South Asian textual and material culture associated with “early Buddhism.” Reveals the intersection of Orientalism, pan-Asianism, and Japanese Buddhist institutional developments.

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  • Ketelaar, James. Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and Its Persecution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.

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    Explores the decline and rise of Buddhism in Japan within the context of colonial-period Orientalism, the rise of the academic study of Buddhism, and the shifting character of Japanese state religious ethos.

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  • Ketelaar, James. “Strategic Occidentalism: Meiji Buddhists at the World’s Parliament of Religions.” Buddhist Christian Studies 2 (1991): 37–56.

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    Focuses on essentialist and political conceptions of “the West” as deployed by Japanese Buddhists in a context of interreligious conversation, and is attentive to the Japanese political contexts in which such interpretive moves were made.

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  • Sharf, Robert H. “The Zen of Japanese Nationalism.” In Curators of the Buddha. Edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

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    Discusses the intersection of Zen Buddhism and Japanese nativism and nationalism, partly in considering the genealogy of Japanese interpreters of Zen Buddhism for Euro-America.

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  • Snodgrass, Judith. Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

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    In a productive dialogue with historians of Meiji period Japan and post-Orientalist theories, this work examines Japanese Buddhist reformulations of Buddhism and ways in which Japanese participation in comparative religions and interreligious dialogue served Japanese diplomatic interests.

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  • Yamamura, Shin’ichi. Manchuria under Japanese Dominion. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

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    An examination of Japanese state building in Manchuria, both in terms of colonial and occupation activities on the ground, and utopian, nativist notions of culture that informed some Japanese supporters.

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Korea

Studies of Korean Buddhism in English and European languages are comparatively few, and the examination of Korea’s colonial-period Buddhist practices and institutions remains in its infancy. Kim 2007 is an ambitious contribution, useful in part for its attention to collaboration and strategic alliance between Korean and Japanese Buddhists. Park 2006 is a useful point of entry for studies of Japanese colonialism and postcolonial Korean Buddhism, whereas Park 1998 provides a more thorough treatment of intellectual and institutional colonial-period Buddhism in Korea.

  • Kim, Hwansoo. “Strategic Alliances: The Complex Relationship between Japanese and Korean Buddhism, 1877–1912.” PhD diss., Harvard University, 2007.

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    A new contribution in an emerging field that explores Korean Buddhist alliances with Japanese Buddhist orders during the colonial period, as well as Christian impact on colonial-period Korean Buddhism.

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  • Lancaster, Lewis R., and Richard K. Payne, eds. Religion and Society in Contemporary Korea. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1997.

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    In this context, see especially chapters 4–6, which address both lay and monastic Buddhist developments.

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  • Park, Pori. “The Modern Remaking of Korean Buddhism: The Korean Reform Movement during Japanese Colonial Rule and Han Yongun’s Buddhism (1879–1944).” PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1998.

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    The most comprehensive account of Korean Buddhism during Japanese colonial occupation in English, valuable for its attention to intellectual as well as institutional developments.

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  • Park, Pori. “Buddhism in Korea: Decolonization, Nationalism, and Modernization.” In Buddhism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. Edited by Stephen C. Berkwitz. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006.

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    A brief but valuable treatment of colonial and postcolonial Buddhism in Korea, drawing on Korean-language scholarly sources.

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Sri Lanka

Obeyeskere 1970 and Malalgoda 1976 have exerted a deservedly powerful impact on studies of Buddhism in relation to colonialism in Sri Lanka (known as Ceylon before 1972). Obeyeskere’s use of the term “Protestant Buddhism” to describe Sri Lankan Buddhist internalization of some Christian cultural forms simultaneous to anticolonial Buddhist revival has been widely adopted, extending well beyond the original sphere of analysis. Malalgoda demonstrates the rich archive available for social historical and institutional studies of Buddhism on the island, and explores the impact of socioeconomic change, including changes in caste hierarchy on Buddhist institutional life. Bartholomeusz 1994 introduces gender more explicitly as a focal point for studies of colonial-period Buddhism. Blackburn 2001 draws on post-Orientalist criticism for the study of 18th-century Buddhist education and administration. Blackburn 2010 explores the complex forms of knowledge visible in 19th-century Sri Lankan colonial Buddhist worlds. Kemper 1984 and Kemper 1991 offer two valuable perspectives on Buddhist practice under colonial rule. Scott 1994 is a stimulating reflection on Buddhism and colonial modernity in Sri Lanka.

  • Bartholomeusz, Tessa. Women under the Bo-Tree: Buddhist Nuns in Sri Lanka. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

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    The foundational study of Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka. Valuable in this context for attention to how colonial-period Sri Lankan Buddhists began to reformulate female Buddhist practice and identity.

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  • Blackburn, Anne M. Buddhist Learning and Textual Practice in Eighteenth-Century Sri Lankan Monastic Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

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    Explores the 18th-century reformulation of Sri Lankan monastic Buddhism, arguing against notions of stable precolonial Sri Lankan Buddhist tradition.

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  • Blackburn, Anne M. Locations of Buddhism: Colonialism and Modernity in Sri Lanka. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

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    Argues for a microhistorical approach to Buddhism in the context of colonialism and explores the double use of local and colonial forms of knowledge by Sri Lankan Buddhists, as well as the ways in which regional Buddhist networks responded to colonial presence.

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  • Kemper, Steven. “The Buddhist Monkhood, the Law, and the State in Colonial Sri Lanka.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 26.4 (1984): 401–427.

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    An acute and thought-provoking essay on Buddhist uses of colonial state apparatus.

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  • Kemper, Steven. The Presence of the Past: Chronicles, Politics, and Culture in Sinhala Life. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.

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    Details British colonial interest in Sri Lankan Buddhist chronicle texts, and the place of such newly popular texts on colonial-period and postcolonial Buddhist nationalist politics.

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  • Malalgoda, Kitsiri. Buddhism in Sinhalese Society 1750–1900. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.

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    A classic and rightly influential study of Buddhist lay and monastic institutional and social change in the context of British colonial rule. Valuable for its nuanced attention to socioeconomic change in southern Sri Lanka and its impact on Buddhist life and organization.

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  • Obeyeskere, Gananath. “Religious Symbolism and Political Change in Ceylon.” Modern Ceylon Studies 1.1 (1970): 43–63.

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    A widely influential article that introduced the idea of “Protestant Buddhism”: Sri Lankan Buddhist internalization of some Christian cultural forms simultaneous to anticolonial Buddhist revival.

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  • Scott, David. “Religion in Colonial Civil Society; Buddhism and Modernity.” Thatched Patio 7.4 (1994): 1–16.

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    A brief but well-considered essay on colonial-period shifts in conceptions of being Buddhist.

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  • Seneviratne, H.L. The Work of Kings: The New Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

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    An important contribution to studies of late- and postcolonial Buddhism in Sri Lanka, attentive to nationalist politics and economic change, with a 19th- and early 20th-century perspective on the rise of contemporary Buddhist nationalism. Contains valuable extended quotations from Sinhala-language materials, as well as reflections on activist anthropology.

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Thailand/Laos

Studies on colonial-period Buddhism in Thailand and Laos are considered here together because the delineation of these nation-states is a relatively recent phenomenon, and there are strong commonalities in Buddhist practice across the northern Thai/Lao border. Moreover, what is now northern Thailand and Laos were zones of struggle between Thai and French states during the colonial period. Early studies of 19th-century Thailand emphasized the strategic and selective “modernization” of Thai institutions and practice at the behest of the royal court. Tambiah 1976 and Ishii 1986 explore this centralization and encompassment with reference to monastic administration and education. McDaniel 2008 stresses the limits of the effects of Thai royal “reform” on rural and peripheral Buddhist practice, whereas Keyes 1977 and Keyes 1978 observe the ways in which long-standing forms of Buddhist practice and interpretation shaped colonial-period and postcolonial politics. Discussions continue as to whether and how Siamese Buddhist and royal elites assimilated Euro-American Orientalist notions of Buddhism (Hallisey 1995, Jory 2002). Jackson 2010 surveys the literature within Thai studies on colonialism, semicolonialism, and postcolonialism. Holt 2009 explores the impact of French colonial rule on the place of Buddhist monks in politics.

  • Hallisey, Charles. “Roads Taken and Not Taken in the Study of Theravāda Buddhism.” In Curators of the Buddha. Edited by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

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    Focused on Sri Lanka and Thailand, and notes changes in Thai Buddhist textual culture that may not be the result of colonial and European influence.

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  • Holt, John. Spirits of the Place: Buddhism and Lao Religious Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2009.

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    In this context, see especially chapter 2, which explores the long-term impact of French colonial policy on Lao Buddhist monks, including the shifting role of Buddhist monks as social critics.

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  • Ishii, Yoneo. Sangha, State, and Society. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1986.

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    A detailed account of 19th- and 20-century state regulation of Thai Buddhist monastics, which includes some reflection on how increasing centralization related to colonial pressures in the region.

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  • Jackson, Peter A. “The Ambiguities of Semicolonial Power in Thailand.” In The Ambiguous Allure of the West: Traces of the Colonial in Thailand. Edited by Rachel V. Harrison and Peter A. Jackson. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010.

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    A very useful essay surveying theoretical work in Thai studies developed in relation to postcolonial theory, including debate on whether and how to conceptualize Thailand as semicolonized.

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  • Jory, Patrick. “Thai and Western Buddhist Scholarship in the Age of Colonialism: King Chulalongkorn Redefines the Jatakas.” Journal of Asian Studies 61.3 (2002): 891–918.

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    Discusses the royal Thai Buddhist innovations in Buddhist textual culture in relation to colonial presence and national politics. A stimulating addition to studies of Orientalism and its reception in Asia.

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  • Keyes, Charles. “Millenialism, Theravada Buddhism, and Thai Society.” Journal of Asian Studies 36.2 (1977): 283–302.

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    A deservedly celebrated and influential article on Buddhist millennialism and political crisis, with reference to colonial-period events.

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  • Keyes, Charles F. “Structure and History in the Study of the Relationship between Theravāda Buddhism and the Political Order.” Numen 25.2 (1978): 156–170.

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    A valuable and insightful rejoinder to Tambiah 1976, stressing historical particularity and individual agency in Thai Buddhist politics.

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  • McDaniel, Justin Thomas. Gathering Leaves and Lifting Words: Histories of Buddhist Monastic Education in Laos and Thailand. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008.

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    An ambitious study that draws on manuscript and art-historical evidence as well as printed texts, which argues that the impact of central Thai Buddhist centralization was less significant in other regions than scholars have assumed.

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  • Tambiah, S. J. World Conqueror, World Renouncer. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

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    A classic study of the historical and contemporary relationship between Buddhist kings and monastics, with special reference to Thailand. Productively read in concert with Keyes 1978.

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Tibet

Buddhism in Tibet and the Tibetan diaspora has been shaped by two colonial projects—British and Chinese. Huber 2008 and Lopez 1998 address colonial and Orientalist impact on Tibetan Buddhist practice and self-presentation. Goldstein and Kapstein 1998 contains valuable essays on Tibetan Buddhist renewal in Tibet, whereas Gayley 2009 provides rich access to religious texts and letters composed by Tibetan Buddhists during the tumultuous 20th century.

  • Gayley, Antonia Hollis. “Agency and the Rhetoric of Destiny: Narrating the Buddhist Revival in the Lives and Letters of Khandro Lhamo (1938–2002) and Namtrul Jigme Phuntsok (1944–).” PhD diss., Harvard University, 2009.

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    A thoughtful recent work on trauma and Tibetan Buddhism, containing translations of important 20th-century Tibetan Buddhist hagiographies and letters.

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  • Goldstein, Melvyn C., and Matthew T. Kapstein, eds. Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival and Cultural Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

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    Essays on Tibetan Buddhist institutions and practice in Chinese-occupied Tibet in the post-1978 period of greater government openness to religion.

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  • Huber, Toni. The Holy Land Reborn: Pilgrimage and the Tibetan Reinvention of Buddhist India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

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    An engaging and revealing study of Tibetan Buddhist ritual geographies, attentive to the British and Chinese impact on Tibetan Buddhism.

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  • Lopez, Donald S., Jr. Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

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    An important and provocative account of how essentialist and Orientalist conceptions of Tibetan Buddhism retain influence long after the colonial era.

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Vietnam

There remain relatively few studies of Vietnamese Buddhism in relation to colonialism. Some studies of Cambodia and Laos provide useful context. All three of these contemporary nation-states were colonized by the French, within their wider Indo-Chinese project. Administrators and policies moved throughout this wider French colonial sphere. McHale 2004 provides a nuanced examination of changing expressions of Buddhism in relation to colonial print culture. Tai 1983 explores the role of Buddhism in colonial-period millenarian movements, addressed also in part by Hansen 2007 in terms of Vietnamese influences on Cambodian developments. Goscha 1999 examines wider colonial-period Southeast Asian influences on Vietnamese colonial politics.

  • Goscha, Christopher E. Thailand and the Southeast Asian Networks of the Vietnamese Revolution, 1885–1954. Richmond, UK: Curzon, 1999.

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    Although not focused primarily on Buddhism, this look at the wider colonial-period Southeast Asian influences on Vietnamese colonial politics is relevant to scholars of colonial-period Buddhism, especially because Buddhist networks also carried political activists and expressions of social criticism.

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  • Hansen, Anne R. How to Behave: Buddhism and Modernity in Colonial Cambodia, 1860–1930. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007.

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    Contains brief but valuable mention of Vietnamese millenarian ideas and their place in Cambodian religion and politics.

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  • McHale, Shawn Frederick. Print and Power: Confucianism, Communism, and Buddhism in the Making of Modern Vietnam. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 2004.

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    A fascinating study, notable for its attention to diverse expressions of Buddhist thought and social organization within colonial Vietnam. Should stimulate further comparative work on print culture and Buddhism in colonial contexts.

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  • Tai, Hue-Tam Ho. Millenarianism and Peasant Politics in Vietnam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1983.

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    Includes a useful discussion of the place of Buddhism in colonial-period Vietnamese politics. Read in conjunction with Hansen 2007, this work helps to clarify how notions of the arrival of the next buddha, and of social purification, served as a response to colonial rule in the region.

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LAST MODIFIED: 09/13/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0052

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