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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that race and ethnicity have been central factors in the development of US Buddhism. It begins with a construction of North American convert Buddhism, whose antecedent goes back to a process of Orientalism initiated by Brian Houghton Hodgson, Eugene Burnouf, and other founding figures of Western Buddhism. Then it examines the term “ethnic Buddhist” as a problematic and unstable category, an assimilationist underpinning in the theories employed by many investigators of US Buddhism that treats ethnicity as an extension of race, the employment of racial formation theory in the study of US Buddhism, the limitation of totalizing teleology and the use of Gramscian theory to transcend the limits of teleology, and the pivotal role that human agency has played in the adaptation of Buddhist practices and beliefs by Asian immigrant Buddhists to the US context.

Keywords: Buddhism, ethnicity, Orientalism, race, Gramscian theory, teleology

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