The World's Parliament of Religions: The East/West Encounter, Chicago, 1893 (Religion in North America)

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ISBN-13: 978-0253221667
ISBN-10: 0253221668
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Editorial Reviews


"This volume should be read by every student of religion and ideas in Gilded Age America." ―Choice

"[Though] it did have its mythic dimensions, [the Parliament] was also a flesh-and-blood occasion that influenced the course of religion in several countries. Richard Seager has done an excellent job of sorting out the myths and the realities and showing why an understanding of both is essential to a proper assessment of the Parliament." ―Robert S. Ellwood, Church History

"As a glimpse of the complex problems of cultural and religious pluralism that have spawned wars and political conflict, Seager’s book is a fine introduction to a continuing dilemma of the modern world." ―Journal of American History

"[This] engrossingly written book... convincingly shows that the [1893] parliament marked a point of religious and cultural change in North America.... This book is clearly the classic work on the 1893 Parliament of Religions―one you will want to keep on your bookshelf." ―Hindu-Christian Studies Bulletin

"Richard Hughes Seager’s valuable 1995 work, now available in paperback, aims to study the 'East/West encounter' that occurred at the World’s Parliament of Religions. Seager is an expert on American religious history, and the virtue of this work for students of Asian religion and history is that it enables us to locate figures like Vivekananda, Soen, Dharmapala, and Gandhi as actors in a social drama taking place in a cultural field where the most explicit issues were internal to the American religious scene.

" ―H-Asia H-Net

About the Author

Richard Hughes Seager is Bates and Benjamin Professor of Classical and Religious Studies at Hamilton College. He is author of Buddhism in America and Encountering the Dharma and editor of The Dawn of Religious Pluralism: Voices from the World's Parliament of Religions.


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Product Details

  • Series: Religion in North America
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press (October 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253221668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253221667
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #633,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Daiho VINE VOICE on June 24, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's 1893 and the USA is throwing a party to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the "discovery" of America by Christopher Columbus. As part of the affair, a World Parliament of Religions is organized to showcase the enlightened, liberal protestant tradition. Representatives from the world's largest religions are invited to discuss and debate theology and philosophy for 17 days in Chicago. Native Americans and Black Americans are conspicuously absent from the event, but one can imagine them sharing in the delight of the outcome. The foreigners turn the tables and grab the lion's share of the headlines by using the forum to not only denounce Christian cultural and religious imperialism, but also to make culturally nuanced presentations asserting the intellectual equality (and even superiority) of their own religious ideals. Many of these Buddhist and Hindu visitors go on to make celebratory tours of the United States, establishing study circles and planting the first seeds of eastern traditions in western soil.

Even in outline form the story is quite dramatic. Fill it out with biographies of the main players and expositions on turn-of-the-century political and intellectual themes, and you've got the makings of a engaging epic-length book. Perhaps Hughes-Seager didn't have the time, or wasn't interested, and so what we get is a rather dry, academic recapitulation of the main themes and events with a particularly tedious emphasis in cataloging the various possible academic approaches to interpreting the events of the Parliament. It seems the author was less interested in the story and its players and more in demonstrating his scholarly prowess.

The story of the Parliament is still waiting for a great writer.

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