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Theravada Buddhism and the Emergence of Violence

SOAS University of London
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This paper revisits the relationship of "Theravada Buddhism" and "violence." This remains in one register an intractable problem, for it is usually thought that Buddhist locution advocates non-violence, not its opposite. Conventionally the problem is treated as one of the 'politicization' of Buddhism, given its alliance with the State, or given subaltern Buddhist revival movements. In this paper, I attempt to find another way into this problem by examining the imbrications of Buddhist locution and gesture, and the relationship of this matrix to latent force. I argue that shifts in locations of sovereignty from pre-colonial to colonial Kingship, produce the conditions of possibility of force breaking through its legitimizing frame into violence. The paper works with Sri Lankan ethnological materials, pertaining to the genealogy of the iconography of Buddha and the Sanga (Monkhood).

Pradeep Jeganathan is Professor of Sociology, in the School of Humanities and Social Science, Shiv Nader University, Delhi NCR, India.
He is the author of Living with Death (2006), At the Water’s Edge (2004) and co-editor of Unmaking the Nation (1995/2009/2017) and Subaltern Studies X1 (2002), andnumber of articles on violence, grief, subaltern nationalism, and cyber subjectivity. He was educated at MIT and Harvard, and received his doctorate in Social Anthropology, with distinction, from the University of Chicago.

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