Feasting with Buddhist Women: Food Literacy in Religious Belonging

Paulina Kolata, Gwendolyn Gillson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This ethnographic study shows that women’s knowledge and practices involving food in Japanese Buddhist contexts circulate as gendered currency. It emphasizes how what we term “food literacy” cultivates aesthetic and affective senses of belonging among Buddhist practitioners. We argue that this embodied knowledge helps women negotiate their experiences of Buddhism and show how these experiences articulate the complexities of their bounded and self-disciplining Buddhist selves. Women use food literacy to teach, learn, and practice the way Buddhism feels and etch it into their own and others’ emotional, social, and material bodies. By recognizing women as stewards of religion, particularly through food literacy, we also elucidate how women’s uses of mundane practices illuminate food literacy as a value carrier that generates belonging through food. Such practices can equally become sites of failure to connect if the intended recipients do not share understandings or appreciations of the aesthetic and affective dimensions of it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-592
Number of pages26
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Religious Studies
  • Gender Studies
  • Social Anthropology

Free keywords

  • Buddhism
  • Buddhist women
  • Japanese Buddhism
  • Japan
  • food literacy
  • religious belonging
  • affect
  • gendered currency
  • gender


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