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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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Renunciation and “Empowerment”

Renunciation and “Empowerment”

(p.185) 7 Renunciation and “Empowerment”
Buddhist Nuns and Gendered Practice

Nirmala S. Salgado

Oxford University Press

This chapter suggests that the scholarly framing of nuns’ stories of freedom in renunciation is limited by its embeddedness in liberal notions of empowerment. Although the language of liberalism and the capitalist ownership of property remain dissonant with nuns’ renunciant practice, nuns’ capacity to lead renunciant lives may constitute a mode of “empowerment,” even though they may not articulate it precisely in that way. This chapter argues that while nuns engage in renunciant practices and also face troubling questions of residence, land ownership, and social relationships, their focus remains on an everyday engagement in sīla. Informed by the work of Ashis Nandy, Carla Risseeuw, Saba Mahmood, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel de Certeau, David Scott and others, as well as by interviews with Sri Lankan nuns, this chapter considers how the scholarly story of nuns’ “status” has been based on a capitalist notion of “improving” the lives of “non-Western” women.

Keywords:   empowerment, liberalism, capitalist, property, renunciation, land, sīla, freedom

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