Buddhist Fury: Religion and Violence in Southern Thailand

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Overview

Buddhist violence is not a well-known concept. In fact, it is generally considered an oxymoron. An image of a Buddhist monk holding a handgun or the idea of a militarized Buddhist monastery tends to stretch the imagination; yet these sights exist throughout southern Thailand.
Michael Jerryson offers an extensive examination of one of the least known but longest-running conflicts of Southeast Asia. Part of this conflict, based primarily in Thailand's southernmost provinces, is fueled by religious divisions. Thailand's total population is over 92 percent Buddhist, but over 85 percent of the people in the southernmost provinces are Muslim. Since 2004, the Thai government has imposed martial law over the territory and combatted a grass-roots militant Malay Muslim insurgency.
Buddhist Fury reveals the Buddhist parameters of the conflict within a global context. Through fieldwork in the conflict area, Jerryson chronicles the habits of Buddhist monks in the militarized zone. Many Buddhist practices remain unchanged. Buddhist monks continue to chant, counsel the laity, and accrue merit. Yet at the same time, monks zealously advocate Buddhist nationalism, act as covert military officers, and equip themselves with guns. Buddhist Fury displays the methods by which religion alters the nature of the conflict and shows the dangers of this transformation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[An] important and provocative study...It will have a beneficial impact on scholarship about the conflict in the south if it encourages scholars to shift the emphasis in explaining conflict as due to the tired stereotype of radical Islam to analyse the close nexus between Thai Buddhism and the state, and the implications that this nexus has on the ongoing violence in southern Thailand." —Journal of Southeast Asia Studies

"Michael Jerryson's work is a welcome addition and a significant contribution to the literature on southern Thailand which has so far been lacking attention to the Buddhist aspect of the situation and the conflict... comprehensive." —Journal of Islamic Studies

"This remarkable and powerful study, based on extensive field research in a contested region of southern Thailand, shatters the image of Buddhist nonviolence. Armed Buddhist monks justify their militant role in defending the faith, and show that the spiritual and social, personal and political, and warring and peaceful sides of religious life are intertwined in Buddhism just as they are in every other religious tradition. This thoughtful, readable book is essential for anyone who wants to understand the dark side of Buddhism and the ambiguous role that religious violence plays in global public life."—-Mark Juergensmeyer, author of Global Rebellion: Religious Challenges to the Secular State

"A welcome corrective to the received wisdom in Thailand, which demonizes Islam as a violent religion causing conflict in the country's far South. Building on the work of Mark Jürgensmeyer, Stanley Tambiah, Duncan McCargo and Brian Victoria, Jerryson debunks the myth of Buddhism as a moderate, moral spiritual force operating "above" the political and outside the state...a significant advance in understandings of Thai racialized identity and the Buddhist spiritual dimensions of ultra-nationalism and racism."—New Mandala

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199793235
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/28/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Jerryson is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Youngstown State University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Backgrounds
Approaches to Religion and Violence
Negotiating Subjects
Ethnographic Disclosures
Chapter Overview
Language Notes
Acknowledgements
Chapter One: Histories
Chapter Two: Representation
Chapter Three: Practice
Chapter Four: Militarization
Chapter Five: Identity
Conclusion
Appendix
Bibliography

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