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What's in a name? Postmodern criticisms of Buddhists under Colonialism

What's in a name? Postmodern criticisms of Buddhists under Colonialism
1 Devonshire Place, Munk School of Global Affairs, Room 208N
Time: Mar 10th, 2:00 pm End: Mar 10th, 4:00 pm
Interest Categories: South Asian, Religion, Study of (FAS), 2000-
Lecture by Patrick Pranke, University of Louisville

The Centre for Southeast Asian Studies and the Centre for South Asian Studies presents

What's in a name? Postmodern criticisms of Buddhists under Colonialism

In a recent anthology of essays titled, How Therav?da is Therav?da? Exploring Buddhist Identities (Silkworm Press 2012), contributors ranging from philologists, anthropologists and area studies specialists of South and Southeast Asian Buddhism have challenged the use of the term Therav?da (Teachings of the Elders) as a legitimate designation of identity by and for the Buddhists of Sri Lanka and the religiously affiliated countries of mainland Southeast Asia. The claim made in these writings is that "Therav?da" emerged as a term of self-reference only during the late colonial era as a product of Orientalist scholarship, and that by accepting this contrived and essentialized identity Buddhists of the region have unwittingly participated in the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of their own multiple and complex Buddhist traditions that collectively go by the name Therav?da today. In this presentation I will challenge that claim along with the methodology and evidence brought to bear in its support. Then, referencing mostly Burmese sources, I will show how in Burma use of the word Therav?da as a term of self-reference pre-dates British conquest and the rise of Orientalism, and further, that contemporary meanings of the word Therav?da in Burma are not incongruous with attested usages in the past.

Patrick Pranke is an Assistant Professor of Religion in the Humanities at the University of Louisville. He is trained in Buddhist Studies and his area of specialization is Burmese Buddhism. Pranke's interests include Buddhist monastic history and historiography, weikza cult practices, and the interface of Buddhist scholasticism with Burmese popular traditions. Pranke's recent publications include: "Buddhist Foundation Legends" (co-authored with Donald Stadtner), and "Buddhism in Myanmar" in The Buddhist Art of Myanmar
(Asia Society and Yale University Press, 2015); "On Saints and Wizards: Ideals of Human Perfection and Power in Contemporary Burmese Buddhism," in Champions of Buddhism: Weikza Cults in Contemporary Burma (NUS Press, 2014); and Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Assistant Editor, (Princeton University Press, 2014).

This event is free and open to all. Registration is required. To register please go to: http://munkschool.utoronto.ca/cseas/event/19017/register/ 

For further information, please contact the Asian Institute at (416) 946-8996.


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