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Who Owns Religion? Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Cultural Appropriation in Postglobal Buddhism

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While historically sharing the characteristics of a universalistic religion and a modernist grand narrative, global Buddhism is mainly the product of a late modern development. Centripetal forces with circulating ideas, practices, and institutions have been part of a liberal market in an open exchange society with “open hermeneutics” and an accessible universal grammar. Its global focus has triggered de-ethnification, de-culturalization, and de-territorialization, claiming transnational universality as a central paradigm fit for a global world beyond isolationalist particularism. However, such seemingly universalist versions of a global Buddhism in recent years, mainly in North America, have been criticized for actually being representations of particular cultures (e.g., “white Buddhism”) with benefits for only particular segments. This article investigates the discourses of this new turn, involving questions of authority, authenticity, identity, cultural appropriation, and representation. It is suggested that criticism of global Buddhism should be seen as typical of what could be called “postglobal Buddhism,” in which identity politics is a frame of reference serving as a centrifugal force, signaling a new phase in “Western Buddhism.” The relevance for the study of religion is further discussed with reflections on how to respond to post-global religious identity politics without being consumed by either stark objectivism or subjectivist go-nativism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)226-255
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

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