Susan M. Darlington, professor of anthropology and Asian studies, received a B.A. in anthropology and history from Wellesley College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan.
Her research, based on extensive fieldwork in Thailand, examines the work of Buddhist monks engaged in rural development, environmental conservation and other forms of social activism. The broader questions she addresses in her research and teaching include understanding the changing social, political, and historical contexts of religion, environmentalism and human rights, and the creative use of ritual for social change.
She also teaches about socially engaged Buddhism, religious movements, and Southeast Asian studies. She is actively involved in the struggle for human rights in Burma.
This course will examine how the beliefs and practices of Buddhism adapted to and influenced Asian societies and their religious (and political) cultures. Rather than defining Buddhism strictly as a scriptural religious philosophy, this course will move beyond canonical boundaries and focus on historical and contemporary practices. We will begin with the history of how Buddhism spread across Asia and adapted to each new society. Topics of examination include temple economy, spirit healing, clerical marriage, roles of women, Buddhist rituals, body immolation, nationalism, practical morality, and the relationship between monastic communities and laity, among others. There will be several required film screenings on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m.
Rivers have become sites of contention surrounding how they can best serve the people living along them and the nations through which they flow. For some, they provide cultural meanings and livelihoods; for others, they represent progress in the ways they can be developed and used. We will critically examine several case studies of rivers to unpack the cultural, environmental, economic, and identity conflicts that arise worldwide as people's concepts of rivers collide. Issues explored will include colonization and trade, indigenous histories and rights, economic development and dams, water rights, environmental debates, and transnationalism. The rivers we will look at may include the Connecticut, the Mekong (Southeast Asia), the Ganges (India), the Yangtze (China), and the Amazon (South America), each bringing different stories of meaning, conflict, development, and environmentalism. Theories from anthropology, history, human rights and agrarian studies will inform our explorations of these rivers and their controversies.
How is Buddhism engaged in the world? This course explores how Buddhism is being used in Asia and the United States to address contemporary issues such as human rights, environmentalism, economic development and race and gender relations. Buddhist concepts such as morality, interdependence, and liberation will be examined in comparison with Western ideas of human rights, democracy, and freedom. We will explore how globalization and cultural traditions influence religious and cultural change as people deal with social problems. A case study approach will be used to look at progressive and conservative responses to social change within their broader cultural, historical and political contexts. Prior knowledge of Buddhist studies or Asian studies is strongly recommended. MCP, WRI.
Humans have long identified with the land on which they live. Yet different people tell different stories of themselves, their histories, their relations with the land and the land itself. Whose stories are heard while others are silenced? How do told and untold stories affect access and rights to land or decisions about land use? This course will explore cases from around the world, examining debates such as creation and use of national parks, urban development, environmental justice, and questions of indigenous rights versus economic development. We will examine our own histories, experiences with, and concepts of land and nature to frame the course. We will use Hampshire's history as a case study to think about our connections to land and history. Concepts such as "nature," "environment," and "community" will be unpacked and critically examined from multiple cultural perspectives.
Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies
Mail Code SS
Franklin Patterson Hall G9
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002