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AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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Religion, Colonialism, and Postcolonialism Unit
Theme: Postcolonial Futures: Afrofuturist Utopias and the Buddhist Decolonization of the Mind
Syed Adnan Hussain, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Presiding
Sunday - 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Convention Center-102 (Street Level)

This discussion-focused session will address the question of postcolonial futures through two seemingly very different examples. The first paper will discuss the 2018 film "Black Panther" as an example of a unique Afrofuturist utopia in which the topics of diaspora, slavery, colonialism, and civilizing are engaged through technology. The second paper will be concerned with an analysis of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s mid-1960s journals and banned Vietnam book and relate his Fourteen Mindfulness Precepts to classic and current literature on decolonizing one’s mind. What binaries are at play in these two case studies? How do these works open up a space to think postcolonial futures?

The session will include the business meeting of the Religion, Colonialism, and Postcolonialism Unit.

Juli Gittinger, Georgia College and State University
Counter-Colonialism and the Afrofuturist Utopia in Black Panther

Black Panther is an example of a unique Afrofuturist utopia, engaging topics of diaspora, slavery, colonialism, and civilizing through technology. As neither colonizer, or colonized, the fictional city of Wakanda is presented as uniquely positioned on the precipice of either, depending upon how it is revealed to the West. This paper will look at the rupture of the primitive/modern binaries, and at Nakia and Killmonger as exhibiting "counter-colonialist" impulses (albeit in different ways). This essay will also look at how Black Panther critiques Orientalist representations of African culture, and the colonial mentality that confines American blacks to impoverished lives.

Victor Thasiah, California Lutheran University
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh on Decolonizing Your Mind

During the Vietnam War, resisting ideological control, long characteristic of Vietnamese Buddhism, was one of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s main concerns as he formulated his original Fourteen Mindfulness Precepts (representing “the essence and practice of Buddhism”); established Tiep Hien (a lay and monastic Vietnamese community); and wrote his most important piece of ideological criticism (Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire). Tiep Hien’s charter even put in place checks against the ideological control Nhat Hanh’s “spiritual resistance movement” might possibly exert on its own constituents. To support these claims, this study examines Nhat Hanh’s mid-sixties journals and banned Vietnam book published at nearly the same time, explaining how his understanding of the history and nature of Vietnamese Buddhism grounds his ideological criticism. It then sets this interpretation of evading ideological capture in critical relation to selected classic and current literature on decolonizing one’s mind.

Business Meeting:
Adrian Hermann, University of Bonn