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Buddha in the Marketplace

The Commodification of Buddhist Objects in Tibet
Alex John Catanese

BUY Paper · 334 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813943183 · $39.50 · Jan 2020
BUY Cloth · 334 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813943176 · $79.50 · Jan 2020
BUY Ebook · 334 pp. · ISBN 9780813943190 · $79.50 · Jan 2020

Classical Tibetan Buddhist scriptures forbid the selling of Buddhist objects, and yet there is today a thriving market for Buddhist statues, paintings, and texts. In Buddha in the Marketplace, Alex John Catanese investigates this practice, which continues to be viewed as a form of "wrong livelihood" by modern Tibetan Buddhist scholars. Drawing on textual and historical sources, as well as ethnographic research conducted in the region of Amdo, Tibet, Catanese follows the trajectory of Buddhist objects from their status as noncommodities prior to the Cultural Revolution to their emergence as commodities on the open market in the modern period. The book examines why Tibetans have more recently begun to sell such objects for their personal livelihoods when their religious tradition condemns such business activities in the strongest possible terms. Addressing the various societal and religious ramifications of these commercial practices, Catanese illustrates how such activity is leading to significant cultural and economic changes, transforming the "moral economy" associated with Buddhist objects, and contributing to a reinterpretation of Tibetan Buddhist identity.


"A work of breadth and depth, this book touches on key issues in the study of the commodification of religious objects, the production of Buddhist art, patronage practices in premodern Tibet, and cultural tourism in minority areas of China today. It offers salient insights into the transformation and adaptation of Buddhist values and objects in contemporary Tibet. The book will be invaluable to those studying cultural tourism, Buddhist material culture, and minorities in China."

—Holly Gayley, University of Colorado Boulder, author of Love Letters from Golok: A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet

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