Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BUDDHISMAFRICA (East-Asian Buddhism in Post-Apartheid South Africa)
Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2020-05-31
By focusing on these research objectives, the project was aimed to shed light on issues that are very relevant for a better understanding of Buddhism overseas and minority religions in the South African context. In particular, it aimed to explore adaptations that might have been sought for by East Asian Buddhism to meet the needs of the South African socioeconomic fabric, with a specific focus on institutional practices and policies, rituals, and everyday practices of the members of the religious groups; if and in which ways Buddhist doctrinal interpretations of issues of social justice and human rights elaborated in East Asia and elsewhere (e.g. within the context of Engaged Buddhism) have been applied to the new context, and what kind of local adaptations they have undergone; the attitude of these Buddhist groups toward social inequalities that are still prominent in the country especially among previously segregated groups; the social welfare activities promoted by East Asian Buddhist groups and their impact upon the lives of South African disadvantaged groups; the legacy of past forms of social activism in present-day East Asian Buddhist groups; and the role of women in the doctrines, religious and social practices of these East Asian Buddhist religious groups, their attitudes toward LGBT communities, and the interplay of East Asian and local religious views of gender.
The main research outputs of my research on East Asian Buddhism in South Africa are two articles currently under review by academic journals
Dessì, Ugo. “Soka Gakkai International in Post-Apartheid South Africa.” (under review).
Dessì, Ugo “Trajectories of East Asian Buddhism in South Africa: A Comparative Perspective.” (under review).
Moreover, the observations and theoretical/comparative reflections during this research have greatle contributed to a monograph that I published in 2019 with the Italian academic publisher Carocci:
Dessì, Ugo. Religioni e globalizzazione. Un’introduzione [Religions and Globalization: An Introduction]. Rome: Carocci editore, 2019.
I have disseminated the research results also through participation in several conferences and invited lectures in South Africa and the United Kingdom during the fellowship:
“Religions and Globalization.” Invited lecture, NIRC (Network of Italian Researchers in the Cape), Cape Town (October 11, 2019).
“Chinese and Japanese Buddhism in South Africa: A Comparative Approach.” Invited lecture, University of Cape Town (September 25, 2019).
“East-Asian Buddhism in South Africa: Some Preliminary Observations on Three Case Studies.” Paper presented at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Religion in Southern Africa (ASRSA), University of South Africa, Pretoria (September 4-5, 2019).
“Some observations on Foguangshan in South Africa.” Invited lecture at the Conference “Humanistic Buddhism,” Cardiff University (May 24-25, 2019).