What does it mean to be a beatnik Buddhist? : Buddhism as a membership categorization device in defining the social identity of beatniks
Source document: Religio. 2015, vol. 22, iss. 2, pp. -178
ISSN1210-3640 (print)2336-4475 (online)
License: Not specified license
This article investigates the Buddhist identity of beatniks and suggests considering it as a social category. This suggestion is illustrated by an analysis of Jack Kerouac's novel The Dharma Bums. The article discusses the ways Buddhism is used in the novel to capture the social identity of beatniks. The article begins with an introduction to the key concepts of social identity theory (categorization, social comparison, group prototype) which form the theoretical basis of the article. These concepts are further developed for the search for a prototype formulation at the level of intergroup comparison. The methods of membership categorization analysis are introduced and used to analyse the categorization in the novel. The article analyses the use of Buddhism as a member categorization device (MCD) in the beatniks' own intergroup comparison with the competing group of conventional Americans, and investigates how the MCD "Buddhism" is established in particular cases and which properties it evokes. The use of the MCD "Buddhism" is associated with the evocation of freedom (in the sense of resistance or naturalness), uniqueness and missionary activities of members of the beatnik group. Compared to beatniks, conventional Americans are defined as a group of subordinate, interchangeable people, and as an audience for Buddhist missionaries.