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Gender and Buddhist nuns in Taiwan topic of Linfield talk

Hillary Crane, assistant professor of anthropology, will present “Relatively Female: The Gender Identities of Taiwanese Buddhist Nuns” on Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in 201 Riley Hall at Linfield College.

Crane will talk about her ethnographic field research with Taiwanese Buddhist nuns who claim that now that they have renounced the world and become nuns, they are becoming men. Her research has been conducted over multiple years and in multiple sites in Taiwan – primarily at a large, co-ed mountain monastery where she lived and worked for an extended period.

In describing their gender transformation, Taiwanese Buddhist nuns explain that the sex of the body is a product of one’s karma and that a masculine body is a sign of better karma, Crane said. To model their own transformations, they draw on several examples from Buddhist literature of stories in which women suddenly become men, illustrating their advanced spiritual state. They believe this transformation can happen suddenly in one lifetime or over the course of many. They also draw on what historians have labeled a ‘correlative gender model’ in which gender is derived more from one’s role in relationships to others than on the sex of one’s body.

After several years away – in New England earning a Ph.D. in anthropology at Brown University and in Taiwan conducting research – Crane returned to the Northwest when she began working at Linfield in 2007.

She holds a bachelor’s from Seattle University, and a master’s and Ph.D. from Brown University.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The Linfield College faculty lecture series offers one presentation each month by a member of the Linfield faculty. For more information, call 503-883-2409.