From Enchanted to Re-Enchanted: Trajectories of Vietnamese Buddhism in a Post-modern World

Prof. Alexander Soucy of Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Canada, will speak about Buddhist modernity in Vietnam, not as persistence nor resurgence of the pre-modern, but as something that needs to be understood as new – as much owing to the structures and assumptions of modernity as to the power of the enchanted past.

Thursday, October 5, 2023
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
243 Royce Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095
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Buddhist modernity has often taken on the form of a secularised, rationalist and democratic Buddhism that accentuates meditative techniques and a focus on psychology and salvation attained through individual endeavour. Non-rational, devotional, forms of Buddhism have, at least rhetorically, been painted as pre-modern, backwards or superstition. Echoing the now debunked secularization theory of religion – that religion will diminish and be replaced by science – it has been assumed that the modernization of Buddhism would displace devotional forms of Buddhism with this rational and humanistic form of Buddhist modernism. This theory is now demonstrably proven false in many places, but especially in Vietnam where there has been a resurgence of interest in devotional forms of Buddhism, which focus on supernatural assistance in daily life and the potency of some monks to tell the future and alter fates (in essence, the denying the secular division between the mundane and supernatural.) Prof. Soucy posits that this is not a persistence nor resurgence of the pre-modern, but instead needs to be understood as something new – as much owing to the structures and assumptions of modernity as to the power of the enchanted past.



Alexander Soucy is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Saint Mary's University (Halifax, Canada). He has lived in Hanoi, Vietnam for more than four years where he did his doctoral research and later worked as a consultant in international development. He has continuedtodo periodic fieldwork in Vietnam since the late 1990s and has conducted interviews and engaged in participant observation in Vietnamese communities throughout Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia. His first monograph,The Buddha Side: Gender, Power and Buddhist Practice in Vietnam(2012, University of Hawai'i Press) is the only English-language ethnography of Vietnamese Buddhism. He has co-edited two volumes on Buddhism in Canada,Wild Geese: Buddhism in Canada(2010) andFlowers on the Rock: Global and Local Buddhisms in Canada(2014), and a volume on Buddhism and globalization, calledBuddhism in the Global Eye: Beyond East and West. He has published a number of essays on Vietnamese Buddhism in Vietnam and in the West in Religious Studies and Anthropology journals, such as The Journal of the American Academy of Religion,Studies in Religion,Anthropological Forum;The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology,Contemporary Buddhism, and in various collected works.

Cost : Free and open to the public

Jennifer Jung-Kim

Download file: CBS-Soucy-talk-2023-final-dr-ewp.pdf

Sponsor(s): Center for Buddhist Studies, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Center for the Study of Religion