Episode 03 – Anti-Colonial Teaching and Buddhism, with Natalie Avalos

In this episode, Sarah Richardson speaks with Natalie Avalos, now a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, but joining the department as an Assistant Professor in the 2020-21 academic year.

Sarah and Natalie discuss Natalie’s unusual research specialization in both Tibetan Buddhism and Native American and Indigenous religions traditions. They explore how she prioritizes the undoing of colonization through her teaching, covering somatic and affective dimensions of colonial legacies, historical trauma, and how to make the mechanisms of power visible to students.

Show Notes

1:16 – Natalie introduces herself and UC Boulder

1:53 – Natalie’s combined interest in Indigenous Religions and Tibetan Buddhism

7:01 – The meaning of decolonialism

10:15 – Strategies to denaturalize mechanisms of power

15:10 – What types of readings help students navigate false hierarchies in the study of Buddhism 

21:05 – Methods of engaging students with interconnections

25:42 – Natalie’s “Lived Religions” course and the types of students she teaches

33:25 – Student engagement with religions on the ground

34:58 – The power of teaching religion

35:28 – Natalie’s formative teachers both academic and personal

41:15 – Disciplinary boundaries, potentials and freedoms

49:49 – Natalie’s “Decolonial Autobiography” assignment

55:16 – Endings

Resources Mentioned

Religious Studies News issue on decolonial approaches to teaching religious studies

Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s book, Decolonizing Methodologies

All Buddhism is Engaged: Thich Nhat Hanh and the Order of Interbeing, by Patricia Hunt-Perry and Lyn Fine, a chapter in Christopher S. Queen’s book, Engaged Buddhism in the West

bell hooks on Contemplation and Transformation, in the book, Buddhist Women on the Edge

Bell Hooks on Building a Community of Love, an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh

A video of birds flying in murmuration