Organized Panel Session
In recent years, scholars have begun to pay more attention to the role of women in Southeast Asian Buddhism. While scholarship has illuminated the controversy on bhikkhunī ordination, for instance, little attention has been paid to studying non-Theravādin Buddhist women in both mainland and maritime Southeast Asia. This panel proposes the need to study Southeast Asian Buddhist women beyond the Theravāda tradition to include non-Theravādin female practitioners of the Mahāyāna and other Buddhist traditions. It shows how critical thinking about gender helps to address existing problems in the study of Southeast Asian Buddhism. In this way, this panel demonstrates that gender is one key to understanding the complex political, social, and ritual roles of Buddhism in modern Southeast Asia, and to understanding modern Southeast Asian society as a whole. Jack Meng-Tat Chia uses the case of Parwati Soepangat, founder of the Indonesian Buddhist Women Movement, to analyze the position of a double minority—a Buddhist and a woman—in the world’s largest Muslim country. Yu-chen Li compares the experiences and activities of two groups of vegetarian nuns, who are neither fully ordained nuns nor lay householders, in present-day Singapore. Melody Chiu explores the issues surrounding the status of Chinese Mahāyāna nuns in Theravada majority Myanmar. Wei-Yi Cheng examines why and how Vietnamese nuns migrated and established Buddhist organizations in contemporary Taiwan. The discussant, Brooke Schedneck, will discuss these papers in the light of her research on Southeast Asian Buddhism.