Pure Land in the Making
Vietnamese Buddhism in the US Gulf South
- PUBLISHED: February 2021
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian American Studies, Anthropology, Asian Studies / Southeast Asia
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 226 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 16 b&w illus.
- ISBN: 9780295748467
Since the 1970s, tens of thousands of Vietnamese immigrants have settled in Louisiana, Florida, and other Gulf Coast states, rebuilding lives that were upended by the wars in Indochina. For many, their faith has been an essential source of community and hope. But how have their experiences as migrants influenced their religious practices and interpretations of Buddhist tenets? And how has organized religion shaped their understanding of what it means to be Vietnamese in the United States?
This ethnographic study follows the monks and lay members of temples in the Gulf Coast region who practice Pure Land Buddhism, which is prevalent in East Asia but in the United States is less familiar than forms such as Zen. By treating the temple as a site to be made and remade, Vietnamese Americans have developed approaches that sometimes contradict fundamental Buddhist principles of nonattachment. This book considers the adaptation of Buddhist practices to fit American cultural contexts, from temple fundraising drives to the rebranding of the Vu Lan festival as Vietnamese Mother’s Day. It also reveals the vital role these faith communities have played in helping Vietnamese Americans navigate challenges from racial discrimination to Hurricane Katrina.
Authors & Contributors
Allison J. Truitt is associate professor of anthropology at Tulane University and author of Dreaming of Money in Ho Chi Minh City.
The strength of Truitt’s work lies in her close reading of lay Buddhist practices. The book makes an important contribution to the study of Asian American religions.- Sharon A. Suh, author of Silver Screen Buddha: Buddhism in Asian and Western Film
Using the best of immersive ethnography, Allison Truitt traces the evolution of diverse Buddhist temples along the US Gulf South. Moving beyond narratives of assimilation within immigration research, Pure Land in the Making engages forcefully with recent critical discussions on refugee and immigrant settlement to explain the connections among the Vietnamese in the US Gulf South and their homeland. A landmark study. A must read.- Hung Cam Thai, author of Insufficient Funds: The Culture of Money in Low-Wage Transnational Families