Burmese Buddhists tell rebirth stories to explain where they came from and will go, from previous life to the next in the cycle of rebirth. The ultimate goal of their existence is not for the cycle to continue but to end, so as to attain nirvana. The Western modernist assumption of linear endlessly progressing time embedded in standard models of kinship in anthropology needs to be withdrawn to take into account the Burmese Buddhist experience and practice of kinship, with its multiple concepts of time and multiple paths through which relatedness by blood and water unfold along cycles of rebirth. The Burmese case invites an anthropological inquiry into the concept of time, and offers a critique of, and alternative to, the Western idea of teleological progress.
Please join us for a seminar featuring Naoko Kumada, a research fellow at the School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, and moderated by Zhaohua Yang, the Sheng Yen Assistant Professor of Chinese Buddhism at the Columbia Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. No registration is required for the event.
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Columbia Weatherhead East Asian Institute