Birth in Buddhism: The Suffering Fetus and Female Freedom by Dr Amy Paris Langenberg
Date : 03 Jul 2017
Time : 16:00 - 17:30
Venue : Asia Research Institute, Seminar Room
AS8 Level 4, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
National University of Singapore @ KRC


Dr Mok Mei Feng, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore


Eschewing the backward projection of secular liberal feminist categories, Amy Paris Langenberg's work describes the basic features of the Buddhist discourse of the female body, held more or less in common across sectarian lines, and still pertinent to ordained Buddhist women today. The textual focus of her study is an early-first-millennium Sanskrit Buddhist work, the Descent of the Embryo Scripture, or Garbhāvakrānti-sūtra. Drawing out the implications of this text, Langenberg offers arguments about the significance of childbirth and fertility in Indian Buddhism, namely that birth is a Buddhist master metaphor; that Buddhist gender constructions are centrally shaped by Buddhist birth discourse; and that, by undermining the religious importance of female fertility, the Buddhist construction of an inauspicious, chronically impure, and disgusting femininity constituted a portal to a new, liberated, feminine life for Buddhist monastic women. Thus, this study of the Buddhist discourse of birth is also a genealogy of gender in middle period Indian Buddhism.


Amy Paris Langenberg is a specialist in Indian Buddhism. She earned her PhD in Religious Studies from Columbia University and is now an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Eckerd College. Her research focus include Buddhist legal traditions; Buddhist understandings of sexuality, gender and body; and Buddhist medicine. Her monograph, entitled Birth in Buddhism: The Suffering Fetus and Female Freedom, has recently been published by Routledge in its Critical Studies in Buddhism Series. Dr Langenberg has also published articles in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, History of Religions, Religion Compass, and the Journal of Buddhist Ethics.


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