University of Wisconsin–Madison

Friday Forum: John Marston

Transnationalizing Buddhism: Cambodian Temples, Student Monks, and Pilgrims in Sri Lanka and India

 Professor of Asian and African Studies
Colegio de Mexico

November 10, 2017
NOON-1:30 P.M.

When socialist restrictions on Cambodian Buddhism were loosened in the early 1990s,  Cambodian monks began traveling to Sri Lanka and India, as well as other Buddhist countries, to study. Eventually a pattern emerged where the study of many young monks was supported by individual sponsors from Cambodia or, more commonly, the Cambodian diaspora communities of Europe, the U.S., Canada, and Australia. This corresponded with the growing phenomenon of Cambodian groups going as pilgrims/religious tourists to the two South Asian countries in trips organized by Cambodian monks and prominent lay figures. Pilgrims, in turn, sometimes became sponsors of student monks or publicied their need for sponsorship. These trips, and the videos generated by them, would also generate support for projects to build Cambodian-style temples in India and Sri Lanka; most of the Indian temples were close to sacred Buddhist sites. The talk offesr an overview of these interrelated processes and explores the negotiation of religious and national identities taking place among Cambodian and South Asian actors.