Research Networks



Buddhism and Consumption

The Institute for Religious Studies at Heidelberg University and the CCBS – Center for Contemporary Buddhist Studies, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, at the University of Copenhagen are proud to announce a new research network. The interdisciplinary network aims to develop new approaches to the field of Buddhism and Consumption.

Consumption can be seen as one of the salient practice of our neoliberal societies. As could be witnessed during the past decades, Buddhist narrations, designs and materialities play an important role in the world of consumption. Beginning with the figure of silently sitting Buddha that is the most often used religious symbol in advertisement, we encounter various Buddhist semantics and aesthetics in the fields of marketing and branding. The mildly smiling Buddha greets us when we choose a perfume, a car or breakfast cereals, enjoy a yoga class or participate in anti-stress course. Buddhist inspired objects, architecture and designs are very often indispensable from the fields of Wellness, healing and lifestyle.

This observation may be puzzling as Buddhism supposedly teaches the detachment of material objects and desires for them in order to find a path of liberation from all kinds of suffering. In our project we intend to address the paradoxical observation that the allegedly anti-materialistic field of Buddhism offers apparently a wide range of potentials to fuel consumption.

Besides developing an overview on the merging fields of Buddhist materialities, semantics and consumptions our project will rely on current theories of medialization and material religion. Current cultures of consumptions are described as driven by emotions and the striving for experiences brought about by various strategies that are able to activate the body as well as the senses. The Buddhist field, as we intend to show in our project, offers tons of narratives and designs that are able to affect both cognitive and sensual understanding. An analyses of the use, the functions and the effects of this field in the world of consumption will shed some light both on the transformation of the people engaging in consumption as well as the transformation of what is held to be Buddhism.

The participating researchers jointly organize workshops, conference panels, and guest lectures and work together on publications and funding applications.


Hawaii jan 17 (3)