Accepted paper:

From the anthropology of Buddhism to a Buddhist anthropology


Will Tuladhar-Douglas (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

On the basis of fieldwork with Buddhist scholars, I propose a Buddhist anthropology and ask: who are its participants, what are its presuppositions and methods, and what are its goals?

Paper long abstract:

The term 'anthropology' has a revealing double disciplinary life: it refers both to a colonial/post-colonial social science and to the Christian theological investigation of human nature. The critical exposure of anthropology-the-social-science's European and Christian genealogy by Asad and others can lead in two directions: either anthropology as a discipline cannot escape the embrace of its theological double and is doomed to parochiality, or there are many possible anthropologies strung on differing philosophical and cultural armatures. In this paper I take the optimistic approach. I will outline the differences that emerge when one undertakes a Buddhist social anthropology—an anthropology with wholly different assumptions about persons, nature and the social; a distinct allergy to essences; an epistemology that never founders on the problem of belief; a profound respect for the performance and materiality of texts that does not fetishise their meaning; a nonlinear sense of history that dislocates Hegel; and a very different understanding of the moral obligations of scholars.

panel P71
Anthropologies of Buddhism and Hinduism