The Blossoming of Ignorance: Uncertainty, Power and Syncretism amongst Mongolian Buddhists

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Discussions of religious ignorance have arisen contemporaneously with postsocialist frustrations and uncertainties in Ulaanbaatar. My interlocutors responded to discourses of Buddhist ignorance in a number of apparently contradictory ways. Mistrust, religious reverence, ambivalence or fear often coexisted with excitement, exploration and creation. Through frequently describing their own or others' ignorance about Buddhism lay Buddhists indicated that Buddhism, and the renewed possibilities of knowledge or ignorance about Buddhism, was a site of considerable importance. Also indicated was a change in Buddhist epistemologies from the pre-socialist era. This article discusses how talk about religious ignorance in Ulaanbaatar presented itself in a variety of complementary and conflicting ways: as a reflection of anxiety over lost traditions, a source of power and deference, and as a blossoming space for hope and religious enthusiasm.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEthnos. Journal of Anthropology
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)346-363
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ID: 245711114