The Buddha SideGender, Power, and Buddhist Practice in Vietnam

The Buddha SideGender, Power, and Buddhist Practice in Vietnam

Alexander Soucy

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824835989

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press


The most common description of the supernatural landscape in Vietnam makes a distinction between Buddhist and non-Buddhist “sides.” The “Buddha side” (ben phat) is the focus of this investigation into the intersection of gender, power, and religious praxis. Employing an anthropological approach to Buddhist practice that takes into account modes of action that are not only socially constructed and contextual, but also negotiated by the actors, the book explores how gender and age affect understandings of what it means to be a Buddhist. The book examines everything from the skeptical statements of young men and devotional performances of young women to the pilgrimages of older women and performances of orthodoxy used by older men to assert their position within the pagoda space. From an in-depth view, the book describes the critical role of religion in shaping social contexts and inserting selves into them. Religion can thus be described as a form of theatre—one in which social identities (youth, old age, masculinity, femininity, authority) are constructed and displayed via religious practice.