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Author: Jane Caple

The literature on Tibetan Buddhism in post-Mao China presents a bifurcated history: ethnic nationalism and (traditional) identity are foregrounded in scholarship on the revitalization of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet; consumption and/or (global) modernism are emphasized in studies of its spread in Sinophone China. Although there are considerable historical and social differences between these different constituencies, these characterizations do not fully capture the social differences, as well as convergences, that have shaped everyday engagements with Tibetan Buddhism among Tibetans and Chinese. Drawing on ethnographic data collected in northeastern Tibet and other recent ethnographic studies, I attempt to complicate this picture, arguing that we need to pay greater attention to the affective dimension of Chinese engagements, the social embeddedness of Tibetan Buddhist institutions in the Tibetan context, and the transformations that have taken place in Tibetan areas, as elsewhere in China.

In: Review of Religion and Chinese Society
In: Monastic and Lay Traditions in North-Eastern Tibet
In: Monastic and Lay Traditions in North-Eastern Tibet
Author: Jane Caple

Abstract

Studies of belonging and community formation often emphasize commonality of values, emotions, and feelings. This article highlights the importance of practices that create relations of distance between members as well as closeness. Drawing on fieldwork in institutionalized Tibetan Buddhist communities in northeastern Tibet (Amdo/Qinghai), I focus on everyday practices of respect and faith that materialize community by putting monks, reincarnate lamas, and laity “in their place.” This can include the most quotidian of acts, such as standing when someone enters a room. I argue that such practices of “feeling apart” and their refusal are central to individual negotiations of religious belonging and to the dynamic, ongoing process of community formation. The importance of these practices becomes particularly apparent when, as is the case in northeastern Tibet, seemingly taken-for-granted relations of belonging and the emotional style that enacts and creates these relations are felt to be precarious.

In: Numen

Abstract

The articles in this special issue illuminate the importance of aesthetics, affect, and emotion in the formation of religious communities through examples from the Buddhist world. This introduction reads across the contributors’ findings from different regions (China, India, Japan, and Tibet) and eras (from the 17th to the 21st centuries) to highlight common themes. It discusses how Buddhist communities can take shape around feelings of togetherness, distance, and absence, how bonds are forged and broken through spectacular and quotidian aesthetic forms, and how aesthetic and emotional practices intersect with doctrinal interpretations, gender, ethnicity, and social distinction to shape the moral politics of religious belonging. We reflect on how this special issue complicates the idea of Buddhist belonging through its focus on oft-overlooked practices and practitioners. We also discuss the insights that our studies of Asian Buddhist communities offer to the broader study of religious belonging.

Open Access
In: Numen