Chinese and Japanese Buddhism in South Africa: A Comparative Perspective

Dr Ugo Dessì  will present the Department of Religious Studies seminar with a talk entitled, "Chinese and Japanese Buddhism in South Africa: A Comparative Perspective". 

Ugo Dessì (Ph.D. Religious Studies, 2006) is adjunct professor at the Department for the Study of Religion, Leipzig University, Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow at Cardiff University, and honorary research associate at the Department of Religious Studies, University of Cape Town. He has published widely on Shin Buddhism, including The Social Dimension of Shin Buddhism (Brill 2010), and on the interplay of Japanese Religions with global dynamics, including Japanese Religions and Globalization (Routledge 2013) and The Global Repositioning of Japanese Religions: An Integrated Approach (Routledge 2017). His last book Religioni e globalizzazione. Un’introduzione (Carocci 2019) focuses on religions under globalization in comparative perspective. He is currently conducting ethnographic research on East-Asian Buddhism in South Africa.

Similar to Western Buddhism as a whole, Buddhism in South Africa has generally appealed to groups of white middle-class ‘spiritual seekers’ related to meditation or retreat centers in various parts of the country. In my presentation, I will introduce a different dimension of Buddhism in South Africa by illustrating the nationwide activities of Foguangshan and Soga Gakkai International, two large new religious movements based on Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, respectively. These two organizations, which have been able to attract a small number of black and colored members, present significant differences from mainstream South African Buddhism also in the areas of democratic principles, social engagement, and proselytization. Based on my ongoing ethnographic fieldwork, these and other features of Foguangshan and Soga Gakkai International in South Africa will be examined comparatively with the aim to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of Buddhism in the country.

Wed, 11 Sep 2019 - 13:00

Religious Studies Seminar room, Leslie Social Sciences Building, LS5.67, Upper Campus, UCT