(P74) Understanding Thai Buddhism through contemporary literature


Single Panel


Session 11
Fri 13:30-15:00 K10 | 3.05



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The study of Buddhism as a religion and of Thai literature have tended to lead separate lives. There are nevertheless many novelists, film-makers and poets who make use of Buddhist symbols, narratives, ideology and language in their work. This panel will discuss ways in which we can query such Buddhist-inflected references in order to make sense of Thai approaches to politics, modernity, sexuality and time as they are represented in literature. The papers presented will focus on particular works of literature and authors, analyzing the ways in which a fuller understanding of Buddhist language, contemporary debates and developments (both local and global) in Buddhism can be used to gain a deeper understanding of that material and, by extension, contemporary Thai Buddhism itself. The papers presented will show that the study of contemporary Thai literature reveals Thai Buddhism to be not merely a static tradition or belief but a constantly re-negotiated, politically-involved facet of life and thought in contemporary Thailand. We will also discuss ways in which Buddhist-inflected tellings of time and gender, amongst other things, present new possibilities for making sense of particularly modern problems. Some questions that the panelists might consider include:

? How is Buddhism deployed as a key ‘tradition’ in literature and art that must be preserved against the onslaught of foreignness and commercialism?
? How, alternatively, can it be used to critique such nationalist or neo-traditionalist perspectives?
? How do conflicts about what Buddhism should and should not be in the modern world manifest in literature and how are these related to contemporary politics?
? Can ‘Buddhism’ as a category of analysis reveal negotiate between the ‘local’ and ‘global’ in understanding Thai interpretations of the present and politics?
? Do Buddhist-inflected tellings of time and space present new conceptual possibilities for dealing with uniquely modern problems, such as environmental issues?