Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Resilience
Secondary Theme: Ethics
In recent years, the concept of individual and community resilience has gained popularity in the fields of mental health, human development, and humanitarianism as a means to describe the qualities and capacities that enable a community or individual to recover from existential stress, trauma and extreme forms of violence. Why do some people bounce back from adversity better than others? Where does this capacity for extraordinary strength and resilience in the midst of vulnerability stem from? What rituals, practices, and techniques have human societies drawn upon to respond to social suffering?
In this context, there has been a growing interest among health practitioners, policy makers, etc. in a set of techniques now tagged under the heading "mindfulness" as a powerful modality for cultivating human resilience. Although tracing its roots to contemplative rituals in Buddhist traditions, mindfulness can now be seen in wide range of non-religious contexts from university campuses, clinical settings and even state government. This adoption of a technique grounded in Buddhist religious practice to respond to contemporary social problems away from its traditional Buddhist soteriological goal of nirvana has been widely regarded as a particularly western modern reinterpretation of Buddhism. Yet, across south and southeast Asia Buddhist practices, ideas, and institutions have long been viewed as fundamental for dealing with existential distress, for responding to ethical questions of how ought one to live, for cultivating well being and resilience in the midst of samsara and its inherent vulnerability.
This panel brings together scholars exploring the themes of Buddhism and resilience in various geographical, historical and ethnographic settings, with an eye for tracking the changes of meanings of Buddhist responses to suffering across time and place. The diversity that characterizes the ethnographic studies explored in this panel calls attention to the breadth of human responses to loss, violence, displacement, moral injury, depression and shock, while also demonstrating the resilience of cultural sensibilities, religious institutions, and tradition in the face of change. Together, the questions this panel seeks to explore include: In what ways does Buddhist religiosity and practice play out as a resilience factor in the context of disaster, protracted crisis and trauma? What role do institutions and community play in responses to adversity? How might various lived realities, ethnographically explored, problematize assumptions of resilience/trauma and the healthy mind as they are imagined in field of global health and medicine? In what ways do these cultural sensibilities interrogate paradigms of justice and testimony that dominate modern approaches to reconciliation and violence? And finally, what can these ethnographies of resilience and religion contribute to the theoretical debates unfolding in the anthropology of ethics and the good?