Research seminar with Dr Nalika Gajaweera: 'Transforming the American Sangha'

The Centre for Religion and Public Life at the University of Leeds is delighted to announce a research seminar with Dr Nalika Gajaweera, University of Southern California (USA). 

The title of her presentation is “Transforming the American Sangha: Understanding the Dynamics of Institutional Whiteness in North American Insight.”

The seminar will take place online, via Microsoft Teams, and is open to members of the Centre for Religion and Public Life, other academic staff and research students at Leeds, and anyone with an interest in the topic. To receive the seminar link, please contact Professor Adriaan van Klinken.


North American Insight Meditation institutions, rooted in the Vipassana tradition of Theravada Buddhism, are often seen as liberal, inclusive multicultural spaces committed to welcoming diverse constituencies into their communities. This talk draws on interviews with practitioners of color and their efforts in confronting issues or race, racism and whiteness within Insight communities. Feminist scholar Sara Ahmed argues that scholars can learn about how institutions are assembled by those who labor to change them. In this light, this talk aims to show how the diversity work of practitioners of color brings to surface the dynamics of institutional whiteness in Northern American Insight institutions. 

Dr. Nalika Gajaweera is a research anthropologist at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California. She received her doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of California, Irvine. Her specializations are in the anthropology of religion, with a specific interest in the intersections of Buddhism, race, ethno-nationalism and gender. She has studied these issues most in-depth in the context of Sri Lanka and the United States. Her current project, supported by the Kataly Foundation, focuses on documenting the struggles, experiences and practices of ethnic and racial minority leadership within North American meditation-based insight institutions, and their efforts to confront issues of race, racism and whiteness within these institutions.