“Architects of Buddhist Leisure” lecture, Hamilton, Sept 20, 2013

Art Buddhism around the World Buddhist community Buddhist Studies Events Hamilton Nepal Numata Singapore Temples Thailand

The University of Toronto / McMaster University

JUSTIN McDANIEL (University of Pennsylvania)

NUMATA READING GROUP (co-sponsored by the Asian Institute?s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies):
The Bird in the Corner of the Picture. Some Problems with the Use of Buddhist Texts to Study the Buddhist Ornamental Art of Thailand
THURSDAY, September 19, 2013, 3-5 pm, UTSG, JHB 317

Architects of Buddhist Leisure
Friday, September 20, 2013, 4-6 pm, McMaster, University Hall 122

The rise of Asian economies over the 20th and 21st centuries has not only brought market competition and political influence, but also the rise of a leisure class. Buddhism, usually described as an austere religion which condemns desire and promotes monasticism and denial, has not been the subject of the history of leisure. There has been little investigation of Buddhist pleasures or pastimes. However, Buddhist leisure activities, Buddhist tourism, and Buddhist material products are common parts of Asian culture. Indeed, some of the first tourist books and souvenir shops in Asia were marketed and owned by practicing Buddhists in Bangkok, Kyoto, and Singapore. Novels and coffee-table books about Buddhist tourists and pleasure-seekers have been popular in Thai, Chinese, and Japanese history. Buddhist monasteries across Asia are sites of playgrounds, sports-fields, and shopping bazaars. Over the past seventy years, Buddhist comic books, films, and soap-operas have flourished on Asian airwaves. Indeed, many of the ways Buddhist children first learn about their religion is not in the strict confines of a monastic training center, but through Buddhist leisure activities like singing songs, family trips, martial arts camps, and beauty contests. These creative religious improvisations and public culture of Buddhism in Asia is often built on the idea that Buddhist practice and leisure activities go hand-in-hand. This talk focuses on the work of three architects of Buddhist public and leisure spaces in Nepal, Singapore, and Thailand and is designed to start a discussion about the very idea of Buddhist leisure space in modern Asia.

JUSTIN McDANIEL studies ghosts and manuscripts in Asia. After living and researching in South and Southeast Asia for many years as a translator, archivist, amulet collector, volunteer teacher, and Buddhist monk. He returned to the States and received his PhD from Harvard University?s Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies in 2003. His research foci include Lao, Thai, Pali and Sanskrit literature, Southeast Asian Buddhism, Buddhist architecture, ritual studies, manuscript studies, asceticism, the undead, and general phantasmagoria. His first book is on the history of Buddhist monastic education in Laos and Thailand, Gathering Leaves and Lifting Words (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008). It won the Benda Prize from the Association of Asian Studies for the best first book in Southeast Asian Studies. His second book, The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011) is a study on material culture and ritual in Thai Buddhism. It won the George Kahin Prize for best book by a senior scholar in Southeast Asian Studies. In 2012 he was named a Guggenheim Fellow and is the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

For reading group materials and questions please contact christoph.emmrich@utoronto.ca

The complete 2013-14 Numata Program speakers list will follow in the next few days.

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