Through Buddhism to secular society in India : Ethnography of the resistance strategies of Ambedkarite Buddhists in Maharashtra



Year of publication 2020
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Resistance as opposition to mechanisms of domination is understood as a strategy of seizing autonomy within the relations of power. In this paper, I focus on a specific type of resistance – conversion of Dalits in India to Buddhism – and the implications of such resistance to the lives of the young generation of Ambedkarite Buddhists. I centralize my analysis around different types of interpretations of Navayana Buddhism by young Buddhists in Maharashtra, and I outline links between these types of interpretations and the process of how the community of Buddhists is formed and mobilized against socio-economic, religious and political discrimination. For explaining the tradition in the life of Ambedkarite Buddhists I centralize my argumentation around three significant interpretations of 1) figures of Ambedkar and Buddha, and Ambedkar’s primary texts about Navayana Buddhism, 2) history of caste-related atrocities and discrimination in discourse and practices, and 3) history of the resistance and fight for equal rights. I also address the question of the role of the differentiation and categorization of practices, beliefs, and symbols as religious or secular in the fight for the autonomy of Dalits and the obstacles which it brings in their mobilization efforts. The analysis is based on ethnography research conducted in Mumbai in the university environment.
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