Cambodian Buddhism in the United States

By Carol A. Mortland

Subjects: Anthropology Of Religion, Ethnography, Anthropology, Buddhism, Religion
Paperback : 9781438466644, 366 pages, July 2018
Hardcover : 9781438466637, 366 pages, September 2017

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Table of contents


1. Introduction

2. Khmer Buddhism Beliefs

3. Rituals of Khmer Buddhism

4. Non-Buddhist Cambodians

5. Rebuilding Khmer Buddhism

6. Temple Expansion

7. Religious Personnel

8. Temple Organization

9. Beyond the Temple

10. Congregation

11. Temple Contributions

12. Temple Difficulties

13. Additional Difficulties

14. Epilogue

Appendix: Khmer Buddhist Temples in the United States

The first comprehensive anthropological description of the Khmer Buddhism practiced by Cambodian refugees in the United States over the past four decades.


Cambodian Buddhism in the United States is the first comprehensive anthropological study of Khmer Buddhism as practiced by Khmer refugees in the United States. Based on research conducted at Khmer temples and sites throughout the country over a period of three and a half decades, Carol A. Mortland uses participant observation, open-ended interviews, life histories, and dialogues with Khmer monks and laypeople to explore the everyday practice of Khmer religion, including spirit beliefs and healing rituals. This ethnography is enriched and supplemented by the use of historical accounts, reports, memoirs, unpublished life histories, and family memorabilia painstakingly preserved by refugees. Mortland also traces the changes that Cambodians have made to religion as they struggle with the challenges of living in a new country, learning English, and supporting themselves. The beliefs and practices of Khmer Muslims and Khmer Christians in the United States are also reviewed.

Carol A. Mortland is a retired professor and the coeditor (with David W. Haines) of Manifest Destinies: Americanizing Immigrants and Internationalizing Americans, and (with May M. Ebihara and Judy Ledgerwood) Cambodian Culture Since 1975: Homeland and Exile.


"Based on a lifetime of both academic and personal work with the Cambodian refugee community in America, Cambodian Buddhism in the United States is a monumental text. Detailing the full range of Cambodian Buddhist practice and Khmer religious life in America, Carol Mortland's work provides an examination of living as a refugee and preserving cultural identity that—although encyclopedic in both its depth and breadth—still remains deeply personal and moving. " — Nova Religio

"Mortland's Cambodian Buddhism in the United States will be valuable first for those seeking to understand Khmer Buddhist communities and practice in the United States, and second to those seeking to compare the experiences of those communities with other refugee and immigrant religious groups in the US, or to compare with Khmer Buddhism in Cambodia or elsewhere. I recommend it highly to those interested in the topics above, and to institutions with ethnic studies, immigration studies, refugee studies, Asian-American studies, or religious studies departments. " — Erik W. Davis, Reading Religion