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Social and Cultural Anthropology | Women's Studies


This paper explores apparent contradictions in the gender identifications of Taiwanese Buddhist nuns. Because the texts and teachings of their tradition provide conflicting messages about women's spiritual abilities, the nuns create a complex gender cosmology as a means to accommodate textual contradictions without rejecting any textual statements. This strategy allows the nuns to assert that they have spiritual abilities equal to those of men without rejecting or contradicting textual statements that they do not. Without denying that they are women (and that they are therefore threatening to men) the nuns primarily identify with the male gender. Compartmentalizing and contextualizing gender symbols allows the nuns to see themselves both as men and as women without contradiction.

Document Type

Accepted Version


This article is the author-created version that incorporates referee comments. It is the accepted-for-publication version. The content of this version may be identical to the published version (the version of record) save for value-added elements provided by the publisher (e.g., copy editing, layout changes, or branding consistent with the rest of the publication).


This is an electronic version of an article published in Religion, volume 37, issue 2, 2007, pages 117-132. Religion is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.religion.2007.06.005

Original Citation

Hillary Crane
Becoming a nun, becoming a man: Taiwanese Buddhist nuns’ gender transformation.
Religion, 2007, volume 37, issue 2, pages 117-132



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