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Zen in Brazil

2000-2003, PhD
Zen in Brazil

My PhD project explored the ways in which Orientalist ideas of Japan and Zen Buddhism arrived in Brazil. Drawing on four years of participant observation, I investigated how these ideas had an impact on how white middle-class Brazilians related to Japanese migrants in the Zen Temple in the city of São Paulo. The Orientalism and modern Buddhism that Brazilian intellectual elites imported from Europe and the US contrasted sharply with the everyday practices of Japanese migrants and led to disputes for power in the temple. This project took me to Japan with a fellowship of the Japan Foundation in 2000. There I participated in retreats at Zen temples and interviewed Soto Zenshu missionaries who had worked in Brazil.

This research resulted in the book Zen in Brazil: The Quest for Cosmopolitan Modernity (Hawaii Press, 2004), which was translated into Portuguese as O Zen no Brasil: Em Busca da Modernidade Cosmopolita (Pontes 2016).

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