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By Justin Nadir on September 4th, 2013

My project examines the emerging popularity and phenomenon of international meditation centers in Thailand, focusing on encounters between international meditation center teachers and their international students. Through participant observation and in-depth interviews at these sites throughout Thailand, my project explores the social processes of religious change and adaptation, and the construction of religious meaning. I detail the historical conditions that led to the formation of persisting ideas of Buddhism by tracing the continuities between Orientalist interpretations and modern-day spiritual seekers. My work contributes to a greater understanding of the most recent articulation of this engagement and interaction between Buddhism and the international community and adds to the burgeoning scholarship that reconsiders the relationship between religion and modernity. I investigate this relationship in regard to international meditation centers in Thailand through three angles: promotional materials concerning meditation in Thailand, experiences of international meditators, and teachings of international meditation center teachers. I contextualize this ethnographic analysis with an evaluation of the relationship of Buddhism to discourses of modernity and Orientalism as well as a historical inquiry into the rise of lay meditation in Thailand. This research contributes to studies of Theravāda Buddhism as well as modern, global religions and the contemporary intersection between religion and tourism. Plans For the 2012-2013 academic year I will be the Assistant Director of the Comparative Religion and Culture Program at Long Island University Global. During this time I will also be revising my dissertation into a book for Routledge’s series on Contemporary Asian Religions.

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