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Buddhist Nuns and Gendered PracticeIn Search of the Female Renunciant$
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Nirmala S. Salgado

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199760022

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199760022.001.0001

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Institutional Discourse and Everyday Practice

Institutional Discourse and Everyday Practice

(p.49) 2. Institutional Discourse and Everyday Practice
Buddhist Nuns and Gendered Practice

Nirmala S. Salgado

Oxford University Press

This chapter questions binary distinctions such as lay/ordained, householder/renunciant, and this-worldly/otherworldly, connecting them with larger distinctions such as secular/religious and private/public through which liberal feminist and colonial readings of nuns’ lives have been produced. Works by Carole Pateman, Saba Mahmood, and Dorothy E. Smith help in assessing scholarly narratives that use such dichotomies in their translations of the lives and practices of Buddhist nuns. This chapter argues that key Buddhist ideas (such as dukkha and samsāra) central to Sri Lankan nuns’ everyday practices cannot be subsumed under distinctions that lend themselves to interpretative codification in liberal feminist paradigms. In addition, this chapter proposes that English terms such as laity and nun are inadequate when used to convey notions about the status and identity of female renunciants in Buddhism. Ultimately, it challenges discourses that assume that “nuns” are in a “subordinate” position needing “improvement.”

Keywords:   dukkha, samsāra, discourse, everyday, practice, liberal feminist, translation, dichotomies, nun

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