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Being a Buddhist Nun
The Struggle for Enlightenment in the Himalayas
Gutschow Kim

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Harvard University Press



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Titolo originale

Being a Buddhist Nun : The Struggle for Enlightenment in the Himalayas

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Being a Buddhist Nun  

Gutschow, a visiting assistant professor in religion at Williams College, spent over a decade living in various Buddhist nunneries in the Zangskar region of Kashmir to produce a thoroughgoing ethnography describing the "alternative society" the nuns established within their restrictive environment.
After describing the social, political, historical and economic context of Zangskar, Gutschow discusses the "Buddhist economy of merit" wherein monks—despite doctrinal teachings to the contrary—are believed to have "more Tantric prowess than nuns" in performing rites for villagers. They garner generous endowments that literally turn the monastery into a wealthy corporation that collects rent from sharecroppers and grants loans to villagers at 20 percent interest. By contrast, nuns are forced to labor in the fields for subsistence, are lorded over by monks and are vulnerable to public beatings, even rape.
The inescapable struggle of being a woman in a patriarchal system is the heart of Gutschow's work and permeates her further discussions, including ideologies of purity and pollution and Tantric approaches to the question of female enlightenment. Although her academic tone can be dry, Gutschow's analysis is penetrating, and her supporting anecdotes are often vivid and effective. Her work reveals that the reality of Himalayan Buddhist monasticism, far from being Shangri-La, is thoroughly rooted in the very foibles of the world it professes to renounce.


Recensione in altra lingua (English):

Frank J. Korom, Boston University : Solidly based on over a decade of fieldwork, Gutschow successfully dispels a number of stereotypical misconceptions about Buddhist monasticism in general and Buddhist nuns more specifically. She places monasticism in its necessary political and economic spheres, while not ignoring the pragmatic aspects of lived Buddhism. Being a Buddhist Nun transports women and nuns from their marginal peripheral position in Buddhist history to its ideological center.
Unni Wikan, University of Oslo: A brilliant analysis, beautifully written, of Buddhism as never before portrayed. Privileging popular practices and local informants over textual expertise, Gutschow takes us right into the heart of the contradictions between Buddhist doctrine and practice, showing the mechanisms that reinstate the very social hierarchies and injustices that the Buddha disdained. The book is a tour de force, a bold and courageous analysis that will change the field of Buddhist studies forever. A truly enlightening and extraordinary book.
Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago : Being a Buddhist Nun is a persuasive and moving combination of vivid writing and sophisticated scholarship. The lived experience is wonderfully captured in both verbal and visual thick descriptions of foods, tasks, conversations, all the evocative phenomena of the everyday, while the book raises questions that are significant far beyond the Himalayas, ranging from the usual questions of gender--Why Cannot Nuns Be Monks?--for which Kim Gutschow offers new answers, to the not-so-usual questions of celibacy, in which she sees newly relevant values.


Being a Buddhist Nun: The Struggle for Enlightenment in the Himalayas. Harvard University Press, 2004.

"The Sani Gnas Mjal Festival: Pilgrimage in the Indian Himalaya." Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 8th IATS Seminar. E. Sperling, ed. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2004.

"A Landscape Dissolved: Households, Fields, and Irrigation in Rinam, Northwest India." Space and Territory in the Buddhist Himalaya. Niels Gutschow, Charles Ramble, and Ernst Steinkellner, eds. Vienna: Franz Steinkellner Verlag, 2003.

"The Delusion of Gender and Renunciation in Buddhist Kashmir." Everyday Life in South Asia. Diane Mines and Sarah Lamb, eds. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2002. pp 261-274.

"Women Who Refuse to be Exchanged: Nuns in Zangskar, Northwest India." Celibacy, Culture, and Society: The Anthropology of Sexual Abstinence. Elisa Sobo and Sandra Bell, eds. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001. pp 47-64.

"What Makes a Nun? Apprenticeship and Ritual Passage in Zangskar, North India." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. 24(2): 187-216.

Anthropologist and translator for Behind the Ice Wall, produced by the Discovery Channel, Canal +, ZDF. Winner, Grand Jury Prize at the Banff and Telluride Mountain Film Festivals.

Consulta anche: Pagina nel sito del Williams College Department of Religion
Consulta anche: Biografia nel sito Gaden Relief