Cosmopolitan Dharma

Race, Sexuality, and Gender in British Buddhism


Within Western Buddhism, practitioners are often assumed to be white and middle-class. Based in ground-breaking empirical research, Cosmopolitan Dharma: Race, Sexuality, and Gender in British Buddhism explores the stories of Buddhists from minority communities, through a rich analysis of their lived experiences. Smith, Munt and Yip explore their various contestations of dominant white and heteronormative cultures in Western Buddhism. Using cosmopolitanism as the theoretical lens, Cosmopolitan Dharma argues convincingly that the Buddhist ethos of human interconnectivity needs to be further developed to truly embrace the ‘Other’ of different kinds (not least Western Buddhism’s own internal ‘Others’). Cosmopolitan Dharma, through Buddhists’ own narratives, explores how cultural politics from the ground up can offer a more inclusive philosophy and lived experience of spirituality.

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Sharon E. Smith, Ph.D. (2008), Goldsmith’s College, London, was Research Fellow on the Queer Spiritual Spaces project. Her articles have appeared in edited volumes, and journals such as Theology & Sexuality, and Fieldwork in Religion. She passed away in 2011.

Sally R Munt, DPhil. (1991), Sussex University, is Professor and Director of the Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies. She has published widely on cultures of otherness and social justice, and is the author of Queer Attachments: The Cultural Politics of Shame (Ashgate 2007).

Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip, Ph.D. (1995), University of Surrey, is Professor of Sociology at the University of Nottingham. He has published numerous monographs, edited volumes, and journal articles on religion and sexuality, including Religious & Sexual Identities: A Multi-faith Exploration of Young Adults (Ashgate, 2013).
"Cosmopolitan Dharma is a trailblazing work that helps bring Buddhist studies into engagement with the fields of globalization, transnationalism, critical race theory, and gender theory... In addition to being one of a handful of works that critically address the ways that Buddhism is racialized, gendered, sexed, and classed, Cosmopolitan Dharma is also the only academic monograph that seriously investigates black Buddhist discourse." - Adeana McNicholl, Stanford University, in: Reading Religion (2016)
"This work provides an absolutely up to date, cutting edge analysis […] So far as I am aware race, gender and class have never been used as the primary analytical category for examining Western Buddhism, which is what makes this work so distinctive." - Damien Keown, Goldsmiths University of London
"Using a substantial body of in-depth qualitative ethnographic data collected by Sharon E. Smith on two of the largest convert Buddhist movements in the UK, Sally R. Munt and Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip have provided a detailed analysis of the experiences of the people of colour and LGBTQI people within the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) and the Soka Gakkai International-UK (SKI-UK). They provide a compelling account of the ways in which FWBO and SKI-UK have been shaped by race, gender, class, sexuality, and heteronormative whiteness. [...] This important book provides an excellent model on how to move forward towards a more productive engagement with issues of cultural politics within religious movements in cosmopolitan-urban areas. It is a must-read for religious studies scholars and students alike, as well as Buddhist lay practitioners of colour and LGBTQI practitioners." - Fr. Joseph Cheah, University of Saint Joseph
Scholars and postgraduate students in Buddhism studies; religious studies; intersection of religion, ‘race’, sexuality and gender; cosmopolitanism; cultural politics and social inequalities. The book will also appeal to ‘lay’ readers such as Buddhist practitioners and leaders.
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