Bourdieu, Religious Fields and Social Power in Mainland Southeast Asia
Part 1Session 9
Fri 09:00–10:30 Room 1.402
Part 2Session 10
Fri 11:00–12:30 Room 1.402
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- Bourdieu, Religious Fields and the New Thai Buddhist Pantheon Erick White University of Michigan
Applying Pierre Bourdieu's theories of the religious field to the contemporary Thai religious landscape necessitates re-examining changes in the pantheon of supernatural beings within contemporary Thai Buddhism. My participation in this laboratory discussion will center around rethinking contemporary Thai religious cosmology in the service of critically reflecting on the value of Bourdieu's ideas about fields, capital and habitus in the analysis of religious organization and practice.
- Buddhism and Society in Laos Boike Rehbein Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
The paper argues that religion can be linked to social structures and especially habitus very much in the same way that Bourdieu linked taste and esthetic judgement to French social structure in the late 1960s. However, since Southeast Asian societies differ significantly from France, Bourdieu's interpretation of social structure has to be modified. The historical dimension and the weak national integration of Southeast Asian states has to be taken into account. This is especially true for Laos. The paper will present a conceptual solution to both problems and briefly outline empirical results based on that solution. The argument will be restricted to Buddhism. The integration of the large variety of beliefs into Bourdieu's framework remains a challenge, which will be addressed briefly.
- Fields, Function Systems and the Hegemonic Constructions of Buddhism in Vietnamese Buddhism Alexander Soucy Saint Mary’s University
Vietnamese Buddhist reformers in the first part of the twentieth century bought into a modernist construction of Buddhism that created differentiations between Buddhist and non-Buddhist and created orthodoxies. This process has been highly political as well as involving gendered discourses that marginalised the way that women practiced.Drawing on Bourdieu’s notions of fields in combination with Niklas Laumann and Peter Beyer’s notions of function systems, I will discuss the way that these overlapping theories explain the hegemonic nature of the marginalizing processes in the development of Buddhist orthodoxy in Vietnam.
- Possession Cults in Burma/Myanmar: Religious Fields and Buddhicization Niklas Foxeus Stockholm University
This paper will examine possession cults in Burma/Myanmar and how the religious field has been restructured, as novel forms of possession rituals for the guardians of the treasure trove emerged in the early 1990s in response to the development of a market economy and other factors. These novel cults represent a reformed, “purified,” ethicized version of the “traditional” cult of the 37 Lords.
- Thailand’s “Mystic Field” Benjamin Baumann Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
This paper asks whether Bourdieu's field theory is productively applicable to the booming of professional spirit mediumship in contemporary Thailand. Are we witnessing the emergence of a 'mystic field' that co-exists with the religious field of Thai Buddhism? More specifically, the paper addresses the growing visibility of queer spirit mediums and asks whether gender ambiguity represents a field specific form of 'mystic capital' that is transformable into economic capital.
- The “Field” of Health in Myanmar: Healing Practices Examined Through the Lens of Bourdieu’s Field Theory Celine Coderey National University of Singapore
Grounded on my fieldwork among Buddhist communities of Rakhine State (Western Myanmar), my paper examines the different healing practices forming the local ‘field of health’. My goal is two-fold. Firstly, I will discuss how most healers combine different trainings and practices so as to enlarge their range of action and to increase their legitimacy. Secondly, I will show how patients make their choice among different healers thus contributing to position them within that field.
- The Religion of Burma Seen from the Spirit Worship Perspective Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière French National Center for Scientific Research
Burmese normative perspectives on religion do not as a rule include spirit worship practice in their scope. This presentation aims at showing that the worship of the Thirty-seven Lords that amounts for these practice - its instituion and dynamics - is better understood as part and parcell of the religious field.
Inspired by Stanley Tambiah’s seminal ethnography of spirit cults and the religious field in Northeast Thailand, scholars of religion in mainland Southeast Asia have since the 1970s intermittently deployed the idea of the “religious field” to analyze religious diversity, hierarchy and opposition within particular national settings. Scholarship about the religious fields of Southeast Asia, however, has rarely engaged with Pierre Bourdieu's sociological theorizing of social fields or the subsequent work on social field theory which has flowed from his work. This laboratory will ask scholars of religion in Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos to bring these two trajectories of scholarship into critical conversation. What theoretical, analytical and methodological similarities and differences unite and divide the conceptualizations of a religious field by Tambiah and Bourdieu? How can the conceptual vocabularies and analytic models of Bourdieu and others theorists of social fields enrich the interpretation of religious structures, hierarchies, complementarities and contestation in modern and pre-modern Southeast Asia? What are the limitations of applying sociological theories of social fields in Southeast Asia given that they have primarily emerged and been applied to societies of the modern industrial Christian West? How does the unique historical, religious and socio-political dynamics of colonialism, nation-building and the revival of various religious traditions in Southeast Asia suggest productive ways in which Bourdieu’s theorizing of social fields need to be revised and re-imagined in a global era?
This laboratory will establish a dialogue between junior and senior scholars of religion, anthropology and sociology who research contrasting domains, fields and dynamics of social power and religiosity in contemporary mainland Southeast Asia. By thinking comparatively both within national settings and across the mainland region, the laboratory seeks to develop a more robust, critical and nuanced conceptual and analytic vocabulary through which to advance the comparative study of religious pluralism, social power and historical agency in Southeast Asian and beyond.