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16.00  Religious Leisure, Heritage and Identity Construction of Tibetan College Students

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13:30, Tuesday 7 Jun 2016 (30 minutes)

Leisure has been primarily viewed as “a measure of time, as a container of activity, and in terms of meaning,” either independently or in combination. From a philosophical perspective view, “leisure is a mental and spiritual attitude…It is in the first place, an attitude of mind, a condition of the soul…” Religious leisure in this study are those leisure activities performed to pursue religious faith by Tibetans. They include both core religious leisure activities that practiced daily such as rotate prayer-wheels in hands with the singing prayers of Om Mani Padme Hung mantras, visiting temples and burning aromatic plants (lha bsang), and balanced religious leisure activities occur less frequently such as Kora (circumambulating the object of devotion like sacred mountains), including raising Wind Horse prayer flags , adding Mani stones and prostrating along the kora way. These types of religious leisure are not “authoritative heritage” in the list of UNESCO, but they are definitely heritages in vernacular voice and in local culture, and have been Tibetan Buddhist heritage for thousands of years. 

Identity is “a set of meanings attached to the self that serves as a standard or  reference that guides behavior in situations.” Identity construction refers to “the development of a particular aspect of identity. Individual learn the specific types of norms, actions, and behaviors unique to a specific social setting or community of practice.” However, identity is fluid and dynamic. Three stages of identity construction were proposed; identity formation, identity maintenance and identity reconstruction.

This study aimed to explore the relationship between religious leisure and Tibetan college student’s identity construction. And the stage of identity construction respectively corresponds to the motivation, experience and benefits gained during the religious leisure. Based on previous research on identity measurement, individuals experience cognitive clarity, affective pride and behavioral engagement in their identity construction.

An in-depth interview structure was designed and conducted on nine Tibetan students in an eastern key Chinese university by snowball sampling. Each lasted more than half an hour. The interviews were recorded and transcribed. 

The results indicated that their family members influenced the Tibetan students in their identity formation stage. They acquire the cognition of the heritage norms by following their parents or grandparents to participate in the religious leisure activities when they were young, though they were not aware of the meanings. Later on, when they grew up, they understand more about the meanings of the religious leisure to their life, and regard them part of themselves, thus develop a much more positive affect towards these heritage customs, and form a more stable identity. Now when these Tibetan college students experience university education and are faced with internet technology and globalization, they also moderate or reconstruct their identity; however they are still eager to experience those religious leisure that make themselves peaceful and relaxed. The religious leisure is their essential heritage, which contributes to the dynamic process of Tibetan college students’ identity construction.

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