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Buddhism and Society: Southeast Asia, Tibet and the Himalayas - 20 credits (RT1347)

Module Tutor: Professor Geoffrey Samuel

Summary of course content

  • Introduces students to a range of issues about Buddhism and its social context, both historically and in the context of a variety of Asian societies. These include Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Tibet.
  • The approach is mainly anthropological, also drawing on gender studies, textual interpretation and historical study.

Credits: 20

Availability of module: Next taught in 2013-14

Prerequisites: None

Necessary for: N/A


  • To introduce students to current theoretical perspectives in the study of gender and religion
  • To introduce students to current methodological approaches to the study of gender and religion
  • To introduce students to the ways in which gender roles are formulated and challenged in a range of religious traditions
  • To familiarise students with examples of religious practice that have a gendered dimension
  • To encourage students to consider common themes in the study of gender and religion (such as the nature and role of authority and protest, the negotiation of individual and group identities and the social and political roles of religious practice)
  • To encourage students to consider the global role of gender and gender studies in the study of religions both ancient and modern

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, the student will be able to

  • Identify and describe a range of current theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches in the study of Buddhism as a living religion.
  • Compare and contrast a variety of Buddhist societies in South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Himalayas.
  • Give examples of religious practice within these societies, and explain various modes of analysis that might be applied to these forms of practice.
  • Demonstrate awareness of key debates within the study of Buddhism as a lived religion, including those relating to gender, to ‘spirit cults’ and popular religion, and to ‘Protestant’ Buddhism and Buddhist modernism.
  • Demonstrate critical awareness of the differences between textual and sociological/anthropological approaches to the understanding of Buddhism and of Buddhist societies, and the contexts in which each might be useful and relevant.
  • Discuss these issues in assessed work with coherent and logical arguments, clearly and correctly expressed.

Teaching methods

Lectures; seminars; some film and video


Assignment and exam

Suggested book purchases

A collection of seminar readings and supplementary readings will be available via Learning Central.

Suggested preparatory reading

Nothing specific, but students are encouraged to look at relevant material about aspects of Buddhism in which they are personally interested in advance.

Primary sources

Again nothing specific, but personal exploration is encouraged.