Nationalism and Buddhist Youth Groups in the Japanese, British, and American Empires, 1880s–1930s

Justin B. Stein


In the decades around the turn of the twentieth century, Buddhists in imperial Japan, the British Raj, and the American empire developed lay-oriented youth groups. These groups’ members developed intertwined ethnoreligious and national identities informed by Buddhists’ relative status in these three empires. This article describes the trans-imperial development of early Buddhist youth groups, examines how these groups developed nationalist politics that were often intertwined with ethnic identity, and considers how the concept of “Buddhist youth” flattened differences unite lay Buddhists across various divides.


Buddhist nationalism; British Burma; Ceylon; colonialism; ethno-nationalism; Hawaii; Japan; trans-imperial; United States; YMBA

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