Book: The Insider/Outsider Debate
Chapter: Chapter 15: When it Gets Crowded under the Umbrella: An Examination of Scholarly Categorization of Buddhist Communities in the United States
This essay critiques the existing binary categories applied to Buddhist communities in the United States, those of ethnic and convert. First, a short evaluation of the term ethnic is offered, followed by an in-depth analysis of the prevalent models of categorization in use by scholars of Religious Studies and Buddhist Studies. As a result of the shortcomings of the available models, this essay offers a new model for researching and writing about Buddhist communities in the U.S., culturally-informed Buddhisms. The goals of the culturally-informed Buddhisms model are: first, to create an adaptable and specific methodology and terminology for scholars to use when researching communities; second, an approach which accounts for change over time and space; third, to seek an end to the essentialised scholarly assumptions regarding the ethnic and racial heritages of community members; and finally, to re-orient the discussion to a nuanced accounting of the various cultural strands that have influenced and shaped the diverse Buddhist communities thriving in the United States. These goals in turn question the notion of a monolithic, homogeneous ‘Buddhism,’ which is reflected in the author’s use of Buddhisms.