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Belonging in a New Myanmar

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

Juliane Schober

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.

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Ayse Serap Avanoglu, Diana Riboli, Juan Javier Rivera Andía, Annalisa Butticci, Iain R. Edgar, Matan Shapiro, Brooke Schedneck, Mark Sedgwick, Suzane de Alencar Vieira, Nell Haynes, Sara Farhan, Fabián Bravo Vega, Marie Meudec, Nuno Domingos, Heidi Härkönen, Sergio González Varela, and Nathanael Homewood

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The Chaco Skies

A Socio-cultural History of Power Relations

Alejandro Martín López and Agustina Altman

ABSTRACT

This article looks into notions of the sky among the Guaycurú aboriginal groups in the Argentine Chaco within the context of the socio-religious changes they have undergone since the eighteenth century. By using ethno-astronomy and anthropology of religion perspectives, and based on our own ethnographic and documentary work, we have analyzed both the continuities and the ruptures in the Guaycurú skies. In doing so, we have found that social relations between humans and non-humans shape the Guaycurú experience of celestial space. These bonds have a strongly political character as they are structured around power asymmetries. The colonial experience, including Christian missions, has imposed modernity on these groups as an overall horizon of possibilities. However, the Guaycurú have sought to redefine modernity, creating their own ‘modernity paths’.

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Eschatology, Ethics, and Ēthnos

Ressentiment and Christian Nationalism in the Anthropology of Christianity

Jon Bialecki

ABSTRACT

Christian nationalism, a long-running and arguably increasingly influential political force, appears to consist mainly of an open set of affectively charged but cognitively underdetermined concepts and images that are capable of being constituted in a number of widely divergent forms. Despite this potential variety, the various instantiations of Christian nationalisms documented by the anthropology of Christianity tend to have similar features, even as they are actualized in quite different milieux and understood as being responses to quite different threats. Drawing on ethnographic work in the United States, this article argues that this recurrent crystallization of Christian nationalism into the specific form under certain conditions—the adoption of a temporally ambivalent eschatology, an ethics oriented around mimesis, and, most of all, an outward-facing ressentiment—works to self-catalyze the production of a racialized Christian nationalism that envisions itself at once as an entitled majority and as an embattled minority.

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The Ethics of Collective Sponsorship

Virtuous Action and Obligation in Contemporary Tibet

Jane Caple

ABSTRACT

A significant strand of anthropological work on Buddhist generosity practices in Therāvādin and Tibetan Buddhist societies has examined their role in reproducing and reinforcing social and economic hierarchies. Inspired by the recent ‘moral turn’ in anthropology, this article addresses the moral dimensions of these practices by analyzing debates, decisions, and judgments about what to sponsor and how to do so during times of accelerated ‘modernizing’ change. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in northeastern Tibet (Amdo) conducted between 2008 and 2015, I focus on a mode of collective sponsorship that has, in different contexts, been considered good, problematic, or even wrong. The moral grounds for such evaluations show that sponsorship is evaluated and experienced not only as a Buddhist practice but also as a social and economic practice with direct consequences for both individuals and communities. The moral stakes of generosity practices are shown to extend beyond individual ethics to the common good.

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Introduction

Religions, Histories, and Comparisons

Simon Coleman, Ruy Llera Blanes, and Sondra L. Hausner

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Introduction

Legacies, Trajectories, and Comparison in the Anthropology of Buddhism

Nicolas Sihlé and Patrice Ladwig

ABSTRACT

The anthropology of Buddhism may give the impression of already having a well-established lineage. However, understood as a collective endeavor bringing together specialists from different parts of the Buddhist world in a comparative spirit, it remains very much an emerging project. We outline in this introduction some of the striking features of the beginnings of this subfield, such as how it has undergone a process of emancipation from textualist interpretations of Buddhism, and survey some of its main thematic and analytic orientations, pointing in particular to its most substantial ‘long conversation’, on the structure and dynamics of Buddhist religious fields. Throughout, we focus primarily on the period following an assessment of the subfield made by David Gellner in 1990. Finally, we stress the importance and highlight the promise of a comparative anthropology of Buddhism that builds on a critical, reflexive examination of its central concepts.

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Bülent Diken

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Winter Sleep is the latest film from Nuri Bilge Ceylan, a Turkish director and screenwriter who has received international acclaim. For the purpose of social and cultural analysis, this article critically focuses on the film’s key themes and maneuvers that have diagnostic value from a social theoretical viewpoint. These themes are religion, the relationship between religion and capitalism, and symbolic exchange. Organized around these topics, the article examines the religion-capitalism-symbolic exchange nexus by analyzing the motifs of formation, intervention, and intelligibility as these themes arise. This site of intersection is the conceptual pivot around which the article configures itself. It explores Winter Sleep based on what the film shows and says on screen, how its thought processes emerge, and at what points this thought supports or conflicts with dominant societal opinions.

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Portrait

J. D. Y. Peel

Marloes Janson, Wale Adebanwi, David Pratten, Ruth Marshall, Stephan Palmié, Amanda Villepastour, and J. D. Y. Peel

Edited by Richard Fardon and Ramon Sarró

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The Religious Foundations of Capoeira Angola

The Cosmopolitics of an Apparently Non-religious Practice

Sergio González Varela

ABSTRACT

Scholars commonly associate the religiosity of capoeira with the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé, although some consider capoeira to be exclusively a martial art or even a sport. From the vantage point of the leaders of capoeira Angola groups, their individual power comes from a set of magical attributes that go beyond the influence of Afro-Brazilian religions. In this article, I explore an alternative form of spirituality that is based on the existence of spiritual beings such as the ancestors and the dead mestres (leaders). I argue that these entities emerge only in capoeira performances, affecting ritual action in such a way as to constitute an alternative form of religion that co-exists with Candomblé. By focusing on the effects that these spirits have in the configuration of charismatic personal power, it is possible to delineate cosmological attributes that make capoeira a potential religious practice in its own right.