Zen in Brazil: The Quest for Cosmopolitan Modernity
272pp. February 2006
Zen in Brazil: The Quest for Cosmopolitan Modernity
Author: Rocha, Cristina;
Widely perceived as an overwhelmingly Catholic nation, Brazil has experienced in recent years a growth in the popularity of Buddhism among the urban, cosmopolitan upper classes. In the 1990s Buddhism in general and Zen in particular were adopted by national elites, the media, and popular culture as a set of humanistic values to counter the rampant violence and crime in Brazilian society. Despite national media attention, the rapidly expanding Brazilian market for Buddhist books and events, and general interest in the globalization of Buddhism, the Brazilian case has received little scholarly attention. Cristina Rocha addresses that shortcoming in Zen in Brazil. Drawing on fieldwork in Japan and Brazil, she examines Brazilian history, culture, and literature to uncover the mainly Catholic, Spiritist, and Afro-Brazilian religious matrices responsible for this particular indigenization of Buddhism. In her analysis of Japanese immigration and the adoption and creolization of the Sôtôshû school of Zen Buddhism in Brazil, she offers the fascinating insight that the latter is part of a process of "cannibalizing" the modern other to become modern oneself. She shows, moreover, that in practicing Zen, the Brazilian intellectual elites from the 1950s onward have been driven by a desire to acquire and accumulate cultural capital both locally and overseas. Their consumption of Zen, Rocha contends, has been an expression of their desire to distinguish themselves from popular taste at home while at the same time associating themselves with overseas cultural elites.

24 illus., 2 maps

Topics in Contemporary Buddhism Series
"Rocha’s vital work contributes provocatively to the study of Buddhism, Brazil, and contemporary religion. . . . [Her] work is as diverse and forward-thinking as its subjects." —Religious Studies Review (34:3, September 2008)

"An important, illuminating, and stimulating monograph on a widely unknown subject. Reading it is recommended to everyone interested in Western Buddhism and is a must for any Brazilian researcher engaged in the study of the religious dynamics of his/her country." —Journal of Global Buddhism (8, 2008)

"Fascinating, intelligent, informative, creative, and (re)commendable." —Philosophy East and West (58, 2008)

Author: Rocha, Cristina;
Cristina Rocha teaches at the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at theAustralian National University.
Read the introduction (PDF).