Call for Submissions - Buddhism and the Crises of Nation-States in Asia
19-20 June 2008
Asia Research Institute, National UNiversity of Singapore
Asia Research Institute and Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Religion Research Cluster, National University of Singapore
This workshop intends to bring together top scholars working on Buddhism in Asia to examine the "crises of nation-states" in Asia's Buddhist countries. It aims to explore complex situations and issues pertinent to the changing status and role of Buddhism in the far-from-complete processes of nation-state building and modernization in major Buddhist countries in the region. It also compares the paths, patterns, and processes which Buddhism has undertaken in its role as a traditional source of moral and political authority in various states.
Some of the questions that will be explored are 1) to what extent has the Buddhist Sangha in each Asian nation been involved in the politics of nation-building and modernization? 2) how and why Buddhism negotiates with some of the dynamic forces of secular governance and overall secularization of modern culture and society.
The workshop is timely in terms of both current political situation and scholarly interests. Since after the Second World War, Buddhism has served as a spiritual and political backbone to many of the "new Asian states". Buddhism has pervaded the politics of nation building and modernization processes in Asia's new Buddhist-dominated nation-states. In Tibet, the Buddhist Sangha was perhaps the sole spiritual and political force of resistance against the Chinese annexation in early 1960s. In Sri Lanka, Singhalese Buddhism is the foundation of its postcolonial nation building project, yet it has failed to establish itself as a dominant source of moral authority for the new nation. In Laos and Cambodia, traditional Buddhism has been contested by the socialist vision of imagined community. The Sangha in both Indochinese countries have found themselves excluded from the socialist governments' national ideologies. They face the dual roles of reviving and regaining moral and political legitimacy, and healing their countries' traumatic experiences from their violent revolutionary pasts. In Myanmar, young, radical Buddhist monks consider themselves as the sole organized force and institution to contest the oppressive military regime which has been in power since 1962. In Thailand, Buddhism has been fragmented from a relatively centralized Sangha entity into smaller communities of faiths and believers. Although Thai Buddhism is considerably strong as a state-sponsored, nationalistic religion, it has been weakening by sectarianism, consumerism, and materialism in the past three to four decades. Thai Buddhism's political functions are well documented.
The workshop's focus on Buddhism and the "crises of nation-states" (Tambiah 1998) requires crucial academic attention. Scholars of Asian Buddhism have been actively thinking and rethinking the issues concerning Buddhism and its multiple roles including the Buddhist politics of power legitimation and moral authority of the Sangha since 1960s. Works by Anuman Rajadhon (1961, 1965), Kirsch (1967, 1977), Nash (1965), Terwiel (1967), Wells (1960), and Grombrich strongly indicate early interests on the fundamental components and complex interactive relationships between Buddhism and Asian societies. In 1970s and 1980s, Buddhist scholars were more focused on Buddhism's political roles. This gave rise especially to some famous works by Tambiah (1976, 1978, 1986) and Bardwell (1978). In the 1990s, issues of crisis of authority and modernity have attracted attention from international scholars (Tambiah 1992). In the current decade, it is appropriate to redirect scholarly attention to some disturbing questions on Buddhism and its struggling relationships with the nation-states in Asia. The problematic relationship between Buddhism and the secular nation-states must be explored ethnographically and comparatively across the region. These issues have not been engaged in current works on the subject such as research carried out by Holt, Kinnard, and Walters (2003), E. Harris (2006), and I. Harris (2005).
Hence, the themes of panel discussion for the workshop are:
1. Buddhist Polity Revisited
2. Buddhist Visions and Politics of Nation Building
3. Buddhist Fundamentalism and Nationalism
4. Militant and Socially-Engaged Monks and Nuns
5. The Politics of Buddhist Piety and Fragmentation
Prof. Charles F. Keyes, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle, USA.
INVITED SPEAKERS AND CALL FOR PAPERS
This workshop will be based on presentations by invited speakers and suitable papers received from interested participants.
We wish to call for papers that address one or more of the above major themes.
Abstracts of papers should be sent to Dr Pattana Kitiarsa
(email@example.com) by 28 March 2008. The abstract should be within 400 words and include name of author(s) (first name followed by last name, underline the presenter of the paper), affiliation and e-mail addresses. Notification of acceptance of paper will be issued by April 1, 2008. Completed draft papers should be submitted by 2 June 2008 and will be made available to conference participants in advance.
The output from the conference is expected to be as an edited volume with a leading academic publisher.
General Enquiries and Submission of Abstracts and Papers
General enquiries about the conference can be directed to:
Dr Pattana Kitiarsa, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Persons for submission of papers:
Rodney Sebastian email@example.com
Faculty Arts & Social Sciences,
National University of Singapore
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