Two Buddhisms, Three Buddhisms, and Racism

Wakoh Shannon Hickey

Abstract


Over the past several decades, observers of American Buddhism have created numerous typologies to describe different categories of Buddhists in the United States. These taxonomies use different criteria to categorize groups: style of practice, degree of institutional stability, mode of transmission to the U.S., ethnicity, etc. Each reveals some features of American Buddhism and obscures others. None accounts adequately for hybrids or for long-term changes within categories. Most include a divide between convert Buddhists, characterized as predominantly Caucasian, and “heritage” or “ethnic” Buddhists, characterized as Asian immigrants and refugees, as well as their descendants. This article examines several typologies, and considers two dynamics: the effects of white racism on the development of American Buddhist communities; and the effects of unconscious white privilege in scholarly discourse about these communities. It critiques “ethnic” categories and proposes other ways to conceptualize the diverse forms of Buddhism outside Asia.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Wakoh Shannon Hickey

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