Oxford University Press - Buddhist Nuns and Gendered Practice, In Search of the Female Renunciant, by Nirmala S. Salgado

Softcover, 319 pages, New York 2013, new

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This book centers on narratives about female renunciation in Buddhism as well as the construction of gender and renunciant identity in the study of Buddhist nuns. Focusing on research about Buddhist nuns from Sri Lanka and including conversations with Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist nuns from around the world, the book raises important theoretical questions about the applicability of modern liberal ideas of “empowerment,” “agency,” “autonomy,” “freedom,” and “resistance” in the translation of the lives of Buddhist nuns. It engages canonical Buddhist texts and contemporary religious practices as it considers the construction of the female renunciant as a modern “third-world” subject and questions the idea that the higher ordination of Sri Lankan nuns has been the outcome of a feminist “movement.” By reflecting on colonialist readings of nuns’ lives and on debates about their higher ordination, this book not only asks new questions about the politics of representation regarding the lives of female renunciants but also makes a case for a more nuanced and sensitive reading of their practices. On the basis of extensive long-term field research, the book breaks new ground by proposing that key Buddhist concepts such as dukkha and samsāra, the everyday renunciant practices of nuns, and the upasampadā (higher ordination) itself cannot be subsumed under liberal feminist paradigms, and it argues that the idea of an “authentic” Theravada upasampadā for bhikkhunīs is inseparable from claims about specific ideas of monastic seniority and power.

Keywords: Sri Lanka, Buddhism, nun, bhikkhunī, upasampadā, samsāra, dukkha, representation, translation, liberal

Autor: Nirmala S. Salgado
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