Abstract

This special section of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East ties together a series of modern histories and contemporary ethnographies of Buddhist spaces spread across the Indian subcontinent. Underlining each of the four essays is a concern for the modern fashioning and reimagining of India as a Buddhist “homeland.” In the past century and a half, Buddhist homeland discourses in South Asia have fostered heightened contact between national leaders, Buddhist royalty, entrepreneurs, artists, monastics, and pilgrim-travelers in ways that build upon historical and ritual precedents while simultaneously crafting new paradigms within a transnational, postcolonial arena. Taking inspiration from this translocative orientation, the contributors explore precolonial histories of Buddhist movement alongside more recent networks of Buddhist restoration in the subcontinent, with particular focus on the role of social memory and material culture in shaping the modern episteme. The essays gathered here further these inquiries by exploring how these connections have changed in the context of modern India and how the textures of these encounters cut across national, ethnic, religious, linguistic, and doctrinal lines.

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