What makes a Buddhist monk? This is the motivating question for Thomas Borchert, Professor of Religion at the University of Vermont, as he explores the social and educational formation of Buddhists from Southwest China. Borchert introduces his readers to the Dai ethnic minority community through vivid accounts of their local temples, village schools, and transnational connections in his new book Educating Monks: Minority Buddhism on China’s Southwest Border (University Of Hawaii Press, 2017). He carefully draws out the social and political constraints in which Dai Buddhists must navigate, including both Chinese government policies on religion and how Buddhists interact with their co-religionists regionally and abroad. Educating Monks offers comparative multisited ethnography of Theravāda Buddhism in the post-Mao period. In our conversation we discussed how the monastic community is organized, curricular education, the monk’s career, the Chinese Buddhist Association, transnational interactions and training, how Buddhism is governed in the modern Chinese state, and how the category “religion” is deployed in China.
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.