Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations

Title

Building and Negotiating Religious Identities in A Zen Buddhist Temple: A Perspective of Buddhist Rhetoric

Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Media and Communication

First Advisor

Alberto González (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Marilyn Shrude (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Ellen Gorsevski (Committee Member)

Abstract

This dissertation is an exploratory attempt at understanding the practices of a Zen Buddhist temple locates in Northwest Ohio against the backdrop of globalization. Drawing on the previous scholarship on Buddhist modernization and westernization, my primary goal in this study is to better understand the westernization of Buddhism and its adapted practices and rituals in the host culture. Utilizing rhetorical criticism as my methodology, I approach this temple as an embodiment of Buddhist rhetoric with both discursive and non-discursive expressions within the discourses of modernity. By analyzing rhetorical practices of the temple through abbot’s teaching videos, the temple website, members’ dharma names, and the materiality of the temple space and artifacts, I examine how Buddhist rhetoric functioned to constitute and negotiate religious identities of the community members through its various rituals and activities. At the same time, I explore how the generative space and settings of the temple facilitated the collective Buddhist identity formation and preservation. Through a nuanced discussion of Buddhist rhetoric, this study illuminates a new rhetorical methodology to understand religious identity construction. Furthermore, this study offers further insight into the future development of modern Buddhism, which is also applicable to other major world religions.

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