Cornell University

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The Gender of Perfection: Theorizing Pāramī (ethical perfection) in Biographies of Buddhist Women

Thursday, May 4, 2023 at 4:45pm to 6:00pm

Rockefeller Hall, 190
Central Campus

The Buddhist concept of pāramī, "ethical perfection," is typically construed as actively cultivated by men of the political and religious elite. When ascribed to Buddhist nuns in Burma (thilashin), pāramī is theorized as an inherited trait that arises of its own accord and functions to protect women who desire to live as thilashin from the imposition of normative social expectations of age and gender. Tracing flows of pāramī in the 1982 biography of the thilashin Daw Gunawati (b.1904), I show how the ripening of pāramī and the ripening of sexual maturity invoke distinct and opposing temporalities, an opposition that is vital to the authorizing frameworks that affirm and enable thilashin in their claims to the contested resources of kinship, time, and capital.

MK Long is a PhD candidate in the department of Asian Studies at Cornell University.



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