In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Globalization

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals and Digital Resources
  • Globalization Theories
  • Colonialism, Postcolonialism, and Modernity

Buddhism Globalization
Scott A. Mitchell
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 September 2010
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 September 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0075


Globalization is a topic taken up by a variety of disciplines, from political science and international relations, to economics and sociology. Anthropology and sociology are the fields most relevant to Buddhist studies; unfortunately, the bulk of this work focuses on culture more broadly defined, religion as a subset of culture, and Buddhism as a subset of religion. This work is often heavy on theory and abstraction but light on concrete examples of lived religious experience. On the other hand, Buddhist studies scholars over the past two decades have increasingly framed their work on contemporary Buddhisms in the context of globalization or the transnational movement of peoples. However, in taking globalization as something of a given, little is said on what it actually means; and the relationship between globalization theory and concrete examples is merely implied. The following bibliography seeks to balance both the surfeit of globalization theory with the dearth of specifically Buddhist globalization theories. This balance can be achieved by focusing on works that are most relevant to Buddhist studies and works that situate Buddhism explicitly in a global context. This emerging field is presently concerned with Buddhist modernism and Buddhist reactions to colonialism and Western hegemony; area studies that locate Buddhist movements within the flow of global culture; and the effects of immigration, migration, and refugees on specific Buddhist communities or populations. This entry, then, begins with an overview of both globalization theory and some of the major introductions to the field of Buddhist globalization and resources for the classroom. To the extent that globalization is historically related to Western imperialism, there is much overlap here with postcolonial studies. The reader will also note a bias in this first edition toward Western language sources that will be attended to in later iterations; as Alles 2008 (cited under Globalization Theories) makes clear, the study of religion in the global context is not the sole purview of the Anglo-American West.

General Overviews

The following section provides useful introductions to globalization and religion or Buddhism specifically, the major edited volumes that have recently been published, as well as reliable texts books for the classroom. Esposito, et al. 2008 is an excellent undergraduate-level text; chapter 6 deals with Buddhism specifically. Inda and Rosaldo 2008 provides a graduate-level reader with a specifically anthropological point of view. Juergensmeyer 2003 gives a fair overview of globalization from within religious studies proper, dealing with both specific traditions and thematic issues. Baumann 2001 gives an excellent historical overview of Buddhism in the modern world as it pertains to globalization. One of the first Buddhist studies volumes to appear with the actual word “globalization” in the title, the articles in Learman 2005 treat Buddhism as a missionary religion, focusing primarily on Asian Buddhists spreading the tradition outside of Asia. Prebish and Baumann 2002 includes a number of essays devoted specifically to the issue of globalization or transnationalism, whereas Heine and Prebish 2003 deals more specifically with issues of modernity. And while Numrich 2008 deals specifically with Buddhist groups in North America, many essays in this volume frame their studies within the context of transnationalism or globalization.

  • Baumann, Martin. “Global Buddhism: Developmental Periods, Regional Histories, and a New Analytical Perspective.” Journal of Global Buddhism 2 (2001).

    Baumann provides a thorough and succinct overview of world Buddhist history, divided into specific historical eras moving away from “traditional” to “modern” forms. It is in this modern form, he argues, that we can locate the emergence of globalized Buddhism.

  • Esposito, John L., Darrell J. Fasching, and Todd Lewis. Religion and Globalization: World Religions in Historical Perspective. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    An excellent textbook for undergraduate religious studies majors, the book is a basic “Intro to World Religions” text with explicit emphasis on globalization. Contains a helpful introduction to such key terms as “modernity,” “postmodernism,” and “colonialism.” Chapter 6 deals exclusively with Buddhism.

  • Heine, Steven, and Charles S. Prebish, eds. Buddhism in the Modern World: Adaptations of an Ancient Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    One of a number of recent collections that have moved away from a strict area-studies model of Buddhism located in specific countries or regions, this collection of essays covers a wide breadth of modernist Buddhist concerns both in and out of Asia.

  • Inda, Jonathan Xavier, and Renato Rosaldo, eds. The Anthropology of Globalization: A Reader. 2d ed. Blackwell Readers in Anthropology. Malden, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

    An excellent graduate-level course reader for anthropology students, the work contains a number of excellent essays that may be useful for students in allied fields of religious studies, ethnic studies, or sociology. Contains an oft-cited piece by Appadurai.

  • Juergensmeyer, Mark, ed. Global Religions: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    A short but thorough introduction to religion as a global phenomenon aimed primarily at specialists or graduate students. Includes helpful essays on key terms and issues as well as tradition-specific chapters. Gananath Obeyesekere contributes the chapter on Buddhism.

  • Learman, Linda, ed. Buddhist Missionaries in the Era of Globalization. Topics in Contemporary Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005.

    One of the few titles from within Buddhist studies proper to contain the word “globalization” in the title, this collection of essays frames the issue in terms of missionary or evangelistic endeavors on the part of Buddhists both in and out of Asia. Learman provides an excellent introduction.

  • Numrich, Paul David, ed. North American Buddhists in Social Context. Boston: E. J. Brill, 2008.

    Although this edited collection of primarily sociological essays focuses on Buddhists in North America and Hawaii, it does not frame the issue explicitly in terms of globalization. Several essays are highly relevant to such issues as Asian immigrant communities or communities of diaspora, as well as transnationalism.

  • Prebish, Charles S., and Martin Baumann, eds. Westward Dharma: Buddhism beyond Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

    Not specifically framed in terms of globalization, this collection of essays covers an extremely broad range of study, considering virtually every area outside of Asia to be “the West,” including Africa and Israel. Includes reprints of standard essays as well as newer work on such topics as engaged Buddhism, modernity, and feminism.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.