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The goddess Kumari at the Supreme Court

Divine kinship and secularism in Nepal

Chiara Letizia

In 2005 a human rights petition at the Supreme Court challenged the tradition of living goddesses called Kumaris and, in particular, that of the former royal Kumari, who lives a sequestered ritual life until puberty, and who used to bless and legitimate the king once a year. The case went on while Nepal overthrew its king and was declared a secular state in 2007. When the judgment was pronounced in 2008, the goddess was still at her post and now blessed the president. This court case is taken to illustrate the directions and form that Nepali secularism is taking. It reveals a distinctive form of secularism where the state is involved in supporting and reforming religion. The religious tradition here is seen as an asset for the state, worthy of preserving, provided it makes way for social reforms in tune with the times. Despite being reduced in court to a child capable of being deprived of her rights, the political power of the goddess remains intact and her role for the nation is recognized in the verdict; both human and divine, the Kumari has been acknowledged under the now secular legal regime.

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Town-State Formations on the Edge of the Kalahari

Social-Cultura Dynamics of Centralization in Northern Tswana Kingdoms

Ørnulf Gulbrandsen

While the people of pre-colonial and colonial societies in Africa often lived in scattered, sparse settlements, the people of the Northern Tswana kingdoms (present-day Botswana) were found in large towns with thousands of residents. This is puzzling in view of their location on the edge of the Kalahari, where such concentrations would normally be least expected. Moreover, while pastoralism is generally considered antithetical to the formation of densely settled populations, cattle have featured centrally in these kingdoms' political economy. Breaking away from ecological determinism, the author argues that the role played by cattle in these societies was mediated through social and political processes that favor both state formation and large, compact settlements. The article is particularly concerned with the centripetal forces vested in the cultural and symbolic wealth of Tswana royal towns.

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"Blood Will Have Blood"

A Study in Indian Political Ritual

Jacob Copeman

This article considers the significance of the incorporation of blood donation as a widespread feature of commemorative political rituals in India. It places the rituals in the context of the current campaign in India to replace paid with non-remunerated donation, and explains how this campaign has led to the circulation of a store of ethical capital that the ritual organizers endeavor—through these blood-shedding commemorations—to capture for political ends. It is argued that there is nothing purely political about memorial blood donation—that its performance relies upon certain established religious themes in order to achieve political efficacy, and that this works both ways. The article highlights the role of blood donation in facilitating bodily transactions across and between different temporal locations, and finishes with a case study that demonstrates the risk involved in these rituals of remembrance.

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Buddhism, the Asokan Persona, and the Galactic Polity

Rethinking Sri Lanka's Constitutional Present

Roshan de Silva Wijeyeratne

Sri Lanka's civil war between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamil communities has now raged for nearly half a century. The Sri Lankan cum Sinhalese Buddhist state has since independence resisted all significant attempts by the Tamil political leadership at power sharing. Most constitutional lawyers and progressive Sri Lankan opinion (Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, etc.) hold that short of a separate state, administrative power should be devolved in the form of a federal state, so as to give autonomy to the northeast of Sri Lanka, while the forces of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism have sought to justify the centralized state by recourse to the history of Buddhism and the Sinhalese on the island. Such arguments have drawn on the ontological potential of the cosmic order of Sinhalese Buddhism, which is fundamentally hierarchical in intent. Here I argue that the diffused nature of this cosmic order provides the ontological grounding for a decentralized state structure that can accommodate ethnic difference in a non-hierarchical relation. Thus, the legacy of Sinhalese Buddhism can be rescued from the forces of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism.

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Pablo Facundo Escalante

, kingship itself was not subject to contestation. “It is impossible to think that someone in the [National Constituent] Assembly conceived the ridiculous project of turning the kingdom into a republic. Nobody ignores that the republican government is barely

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Cary J. Nederman

absolutely and irreconcilably opposed to kingship. In his Moralia in Job , Gregory explains that the term “tyrant” could potentially apply to any person who pridefully exercises power. On the one hand, he says, “A tyrant properly speaking ( proprie ) is one

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Khayke Beruriah and Jeremy Schonfield

school of Ishmael’s sensitivity to divine severity with that of Akiva’s to divine mercy particularly useful, closely followed by Dennis Sasso’s comments on Roman imperial models of kingship and David Stern’s on human powerlessness. The range of

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Lena Steveker

Caroline kingship. They do so by drawing on the notion of England as a peaceful Arcadia, a notion that was first evoked in the masques of Charles's father James I whose foreign policy was committed to keeping England out of the Thirty Years’ War. James

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Imitations of Buddhist Statecraft

The Patronage of Lao Buddhism and the Reconstruction of Relic Shrines and Temples in Colonial French Indochina

Patrice Ladwig

domains of architecture and religion. Cambodia and Laos were subject to quite similar colonial politics rooted, for example, in the fact that both had Theravāda Buddhist kingship and statecraft as forms of indigenous political organization. For French

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Where Character Is King

Gregory Doran’s Henriad

Alice Dailey

in Stratford, London and China before its sold-out, month-long finale at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where I saw it in April 2016. In addition to declaring kingship and nationality its key conceptual interests, the title describes a spectacle of