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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Autoethnographic Genre and Buddhist Studies: Reflections of a Postcolonial 'Western Buddhist' Convert

The paper I've spoken about in which I reflect on the tensions and ambivalence I feel about being a 'Western Buddhist' convert has just been published. I have hosted it here: 'The Autoethnographic Genre and Buddhist Studies: Reflections of a Postcolonial "Western Buddhist" Convert.' Looking over it again, it seems that the arguments I'm articulating in the paper, as well as on this blog, Facebook, and elsewhere this year, are different iterations of this observation by Daniel Dubuisson in his study The Western Construction of Religion:

Through the idea of religion, the West continuously speaks of itself to itself, even when it speaks of others. For when it does so, it is implicitly in relation to the perfected model that it thinks itself to be. This is narcissistic objectification.

The paper should be of interest to anyone who is participating in the emergent 'Western Buddhism', especially those who are curious about how ongoing (and in my opinion, circuitous and misdirected) debates on whether 'Buddhism' is properly a religion or philosophy, or whether 'Western Buddhism' should totally discard the 'cultural accretion' of traditional Asian Buddhism to become fully secularised, have come about. For readers in academia, and particularly the field of Buddhist Studies (or Religion Studies more generally), the paper represents my attempt to explore the proposals by John Makransky about the need to develop what he calls Buddhist critical-constructive reflection, a mode of discourse that brings together the sacred and scholarly pursuits of the Buddhist scholar-practitioner (and which does not subordinate the truth claims of Buddhism under the will to knowledge-power of the academy) to explore new interfaces between Buddhism, academia, and society. My argument is that the aims of Buddhist critical-constructive reflection invites autoethnographic approaches to writing and analysis.


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