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Swearer to Speak on 'Religion and Globalization: A Thai Buddhist Perspective'

For Immediate Release:  January 31, 2007
Contact:  Marsha Nishi Mullan    

Swearer to Speak on 'Religion and Globalization:
A Thai Buddhist Perspective'

Don Swearer, distinguished visiting professor of Buddhist Studies, director of the Center for the Study of World Religions, and associate dean for faculty and curricular affairs of the Harvard Divinity School, will speak at Swarthmore College on "Religion and Globalization: A Thai Buddhist Perspective" on Tuesday, Feb. 6, at 4:30 p.m. in the Scheuer Room, Kohlberg Hall. Swearer is also the Charles and Harriet Cox McDowell Professor Emeritus of Religion at Swarthmore, where he taught from 1970 to 2004. His talk is sponsored by the Department of Religion and is free and open to the public.

Historically when the so-called "world religions" have taken root and flourished in various regions they have adapted to different cultures. Inevitably these adaptations have produced tensions between their normative-universal and culturally-particular dimensions. In contemporary terms we might say that world religions have been a "globalizing" force and their cultural adaptations or contextualizations reflect a process of "glocalization."

For example, although Buddhism across Southeast Asia is referred to as "Theravada" and the monastic lineages of the region share some things in common, they developed unique forms of teaching and practice within particular geographic and cultural contexts.

In this talk Swearer will consider three phases of globalization/glocalization within the historical framework of Thai Buddhism: the formation of the early monarchical Thai states beginning in the 13th century; the development of the modern nation state (Siam) from the mid-19th into the early 20th century; and the emergence of Engaged Buddhism today. Each of these phases involve transformations of what it meant to be/what it means to be Thai (Buddhist).

Swearer has received numerous research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Program, and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. He has held a variety of editorial posts for several academic journals, including the Journal of Asian Studies, the Journal of Religious Ethics, and Religious Studies Review. His recent books include Becoming the Buddha: The Ritual of Image Consecration in Thailand (2004), Sacred Mountains of Northern Thailand and Their Legends (2004), The Legend of Queen Cama (1998), and The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia (1995).

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