On Tuesday, May 26, 2015, Professor Bonnie Tai will give a talk entitled, “Made in Taiwan: Reflections on Buddhism, Feminism, Education, and Social Change.” The talk is at 4:10 in the McCormick Lecture Hall at College of the Atlantic and is free and open to the public.

Tai is Director and Faculty of Educational Studies at College of the Atlantic. She is a native-born Taiwanese-American, feminist teacher educator, and student of Buddhist philosophy and practice. Tai recently traveled to Taiwan during a sabbatical to explore the role of Buddhist nuns in social change.

The mountainous island of Taiwan is best known in the global north for its politically ambiguous relationship with the People’s Republic of China and its reputation for impressive economic growth as one of the four “Asian Tigers.”  It ranks behind South Korea and ahead of Singapore and Hong Kong in measures of income inequality, democracy, and global well-being.  Less well-known is that Taiwan is home to the most bhikkhunis (fully ordained Buddhist nuns) in the world, where many countries continue to deny full ordination to women.  Contrary to popular images of the reclusive monastic, Taiwanese bhikkhunis are leading social change efforts in public health, humanitarian aid, environmental sustainability, and education.

In this forum, Tai will introduce the work of three Buddhist-founded organizations—a Buddhist charitable foundation, a Buddhist institute, and a Buddhist-founded, now independently managed school.  Reflecting on these cases, she will consider the role of Buddhism, feminism, Confucianism, adult education, and European-American educational philosophies in recent efforts to shape Taiwanese relationships with the environment, human suffering, and human development.  This exploration into the role of Buddhist nuns in social change in Taiwan is part of a larger project to uncover, in Rita Gross’ words in Buddhism After Patriarchy, an “accurate and usable past.”

Tai has taught middle-school students in Boston and Botswana, undergraduates in greater Boston, and graduate students in Los Angeles County.   Since joining COA in 2000, she has taught a wide range of courses on schooling and social change; experiential, intercultural, and comparative education; gender, power, and education; social identities and group dynamics; and educational research and teaching methods.  She earned her Ed.D. in Learning and Teaching from Harvard Graduate School of Education and her B.A. in Humanistic Studies at Johns Hopkins University.