Date of Award

Spring 5-23-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Waghorne, Joanne P.


Ambedkar, Buddhism, caste, conversion, youth

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Religion | South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies


In this dissertation I engage with the stories of young adult Indians from Scheduled Caste and Tribe and Other Backward Caste backgrounds who have come to study at Nagaloka Centre, a Buddhist training center in Nagpur, Maharashtra. Some of them are Ambedkarites or people who take Dr. B.R. Ambedkar – leader of the Dalit community and author of the Indian constitution – as their hero and exemplar. Some of them are Buddhists or people who follow the teachings of Śākyamuni Buddha in one manner or another. Some of them are just young people in tough situations, seeking a way out. All of these young people have come from different states across India to live together at Nagaloka Centre and take either an 8-month dhammasekhiya (dhamma training) course or a 3-year Bachelor's degree in Buddhism & Ambedkar Thought. Over the course of this dissertation, I will explore the entanglements of emplacement, belonging, ethics, and aspiration within the stories of Nagaloka's students through the frame of boundation and bindās (restriction and release). Life at Nagaloka does not always, or perhaps even often, live up to its ideal, but in all its tensions, flaws, and conflicts, the students do experience a way of living life that differs from the norm in important ways. With this dissertation, I explore the resonances of what it feels like to be a young person and what it feels like to be a part of a developing religious movement – to anxiously and hopefully desire change, something more, freedom, all while being restricted and 'pressurized' by obligation and cultural memory.


Open Access

Available for download on Friday, September 06, 2024