Belonging in a New Myanmar

Identity, Law, and Gender in the Anthropology of Contemporary Buddhism

in Religion and Society
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  • 1 Arizona State University j.schober@asu.edu
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ABSTRACT

“To be Burmese is to be Buddhist” is a slogan commonly identified with the dawn of nationalism in the country known today as Myanmar, where violence between Buddhist, Muslim, and ethnic communities has increasingly jeopardized liberalizing reforms. How do contemporary forms of Theravada Buddhist discourse shape ideas of belonging in a multi-religious and ethnically diverse Myanmar following the dissolution of military rule in 2011? How do digital technologies and globalizing communication networks in this nation influence rapidly changing social identities, anxieties, and imaginaries that Brigit Meyer identifies as ‘aesthetic formations’? In this article, I trace diverse genealogies of belonging to show how contemporary constructions of meaning facilitate religious imaginaries that may exacerbate difference by drawing on past ideologies of conflict or may seek to envision a new and diverse Myanmar.

Contributor Notes

JULIANE SCHOBER is the Director of the Center for Asian Research and a Professor of Religious Studies at Arizona State University. As an anthropologist of religion, she works on Theravada Buddhist practice in Southeast Asia, especially Burma/Myanmar. Her current research focuses on regional exchange networks and the mediation of icons in such networks. In addition to having published many essays, she is the author of Modern Buddhist Conjunctures in Myanmar (2011), editor of Sacred Biography in the Buddhist Traditions of South and Southeast Asia (1997), and co-editor of Buddhist Manuscript Cultures: Knowledge, Ritual, and Art (2009). E-mail: j.schober@asu.edu

Religion and Society

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