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How the Swans Came to Lake Michigan: The Social Organization of Buddhist Chicago

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An analysis of the social organization of Buddhist groups and networks in metropolitan Chicago sheds light on the social organization of Buddhism and other new religions in American cities generally. Following an overview of the history and geography of Buddhist Chicago, this essay examines the dynamics underlying the emergence of local Buddhist groups and networks under two main headings: religious identities and sociological factors. First, Buddhism's various branches, traditions, and lineages are discussed; sociological factors discussed include organizational types, ethnic/racial distinctions, sociological functions played by Buddhism for “culture Buddhists” and “convert Buddhists,”and the role of local social dynamics in the emergence, proliferation, and interaction of Buddhist groups. As the field of American Buddhist studies enters a period of renewed productivity, this essay offers a conceptual framework for understanding major issues that can benefit both researchers within the field and interested social scientists outside of it.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Office of Social Science Research, University of Illinois at Chicago

Publication date: June 1, 2000


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