Journal Article

Language, Orthodoxy, and Performances of Authority in Vietnamese Buddhism

Alexander Soucy

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 77, issue 2, pages 348-371
Published in print June 2009 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online June 2009 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
Language, Orthodoxy, and Performances of Authority in Vietnamese Buddhism

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Men and women in Vietnam engage in Buddhist practice in very specific ways and have widely different understandings of what their practices achieve. The Buddhist pagoda in Vietnam is generally seen as a feminine space, borne out by the fact that between 80% and 90% of participants are old women. Nonetheless, there are some old men who become prominent participants, but only after renegotiating the significance of Buddhist practice in ways that are more compatible with their masculine identities. This paper focuses on the performative aspects of masculine participation in the Buddhist field that are intended to gain greater status and authority. A secondary aim of the paper is to relate this particular ethnographic example to the larger field of Religious Studies. The concentration on texts, as authoritative voices in religious traditions, ignores the performative aspect of their creation. It suggests that, while they are performances that often hold greater currency, they should nonetheless be understood as only one sort of performance among many.

Journal Article.  9541 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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