Buddhism Buddhism in Africa
GJ Mason
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 September 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0285


Buddhism in Africa is a very small research field. By its nature, most research is predominantly sociological, combining also social science and historical perspectives, analyzing the development of Buddhism in various African societies. While social-based studies are important in terms documenting the growth of Buddhism in Africa, research into Buddhism in Africa has, perhaps, a more significant role in establishing the field within the wider field of Buddhist studies. In this regard, research into Buddhism in Africa also contributes, in a small way, to the development of the broader decolonial field which foregrounds Asian and African developed epistemologies, not solely determined by Northern Hemisphere academia. Studies in Buddhism in Africa began in the late 20th century by South African academics. Since then, however, the field has developed. Recent research in Buddhism in Africa has attracted international scholars and Buddhism scholars from other African countries.

General Overviews

These texts provide good introductions to Buddhism in Africa. Clasquin 1999 is a pioneering PhD thesis. Clasquin 2002 and Clasquin-Johnson 2017 are derived from the author’s PhD thesis. Significantly though, Clasquin and Krüger 1999 contains a broad view on the topic from a variety of authors. Wratten 1995 is also a pioneering PhD thesis in the field.

  • Clasquin, Michel. “Transplanting Buddhism: An Investigation into the Spread of Buddhism in South Africa.” Dlitt et Phil diss., University of South Africa, 1999.

    This ground-breaking research sets the theoretical framework for future studies in Buddhism in South Africa, arguing that transplantation offers a more accurate representation of Buddhism in Africa than of missionary impetus. The thesis examines the transformation of Western Buddhism in South Africa in relation to its predominantly white middle-class members.

  • Clasquin, Michel. “Buddhism in Africa.” In Westward Dharma: Buddhism beyond Asia. Edited by Charles Prebish and Martin Baumann, 152–162. Berkeley: University of California, 2002.

    An informative overview of Buddhism in Africa. It is a brief summary of his PhD thesis.

  • Clasquin-Johnson, Michel. “Buddhism in Africa.” In The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Buddhism. Edited by Michael K. Jerryson, 349–362. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

    Clasquin-Johnson provides an engaging account of the ways Buddhism has been transplanted into Africa via historical processes and conversion. While Buddhism is mainly centered in South Africa, the chapter also looks at Buddhism in other African states.

  • Clasquin, Michel, and J. S. Krüger. Buddhism in Africa. Pretoria, South Africa: Unisa Press, 1999.

    This book is the proceedings of a conference on Buddhism in Africa held at The University of South Africa by the Department of Religious Studies in June 1998. In contains interesting historical information, though dated, papers (the conference taking place in 1999) on Buddhism within South African society undergoing social and political transition in early years of post-Apartheid, democracy.

  • Wratten, Darrel. “Buddhism in South Africa: From Textual Imagination to Contextual Innovation.” PhD diss., University of Cape Town, 1995.

    This a very important thesis in that it is the very first research produced on Buddhism in Africa. It remains a significant contribution.

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