Amy Langenberg

Feb 27, 2018

Birth in Buddhism

The Suffering Fetus and Female Freedom

Routledge 2017

purchase at Birth and suffering are deeply linked concepts in Buddhism, and their connection has shaped how the bodies and status of women were understood. Join us for a conversation with Amy Paris Langenberg about her book Birth in Buddhism: The Suffering Fetus and Female Freedom, published by Routledge in their series Critical Studies in Buddhism. Amy takes as her focus an early first millennium work, the Garbhavakranti-sutra, or Descent of the Embryo Scripture. Using this text as her point of departure, and reading across a wide range of genres, Amy explores birth metaphors, the journey of the fetus, and the concepts of purity, auspiciousness, and disgust, showing how the Buddhist depiction of female bodies operated against a backdrop of earlier South Asian ideas. The Descent of the Embryo Scripture speaks to the human condition, but especially to the status of women, fertility, the female body, and mothers. Amy argues that this Buddhist depiction of women's bodies as disgusting and impure opened the way for a different kind of femininity for Buddhist nuns.
Natasha Heller is an Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. You can find her on Twitter @nheller or email her at

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Natasha Heller

Natasha Heller is an associate professor of Chinese Religion and Buddhism at the University of Virginia. Find her on Twitter @nheller.

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