Mediating between Purity and Defilement – Shifting Images of Gender and Power in a Thai Buddhist Monastery for Women

76.00

In stock

Buy E-Book (PDF)

Description

This book investigates shifting gender dynamics in a Buddhist monastery for women in Northern Thailand. Based on ethnographic fieldwork with a community of female monastics in the province of Chiang Mai, the study explores women’s agency in recently establishing, with success, the region’s first known order of fully ordained Buddhist nuns (bhikkhunī). Central to the investigation are tensions arising from novel images of women’s bodies clothed in saffron robes that have historically been associated with male power and prestige. The study asks how local veneration of charismatic nuns is reconciled with longstanding beliefs in a female capacity to defile or destroy sacred potency. Time-honoured notions of menstrual pollution are revisited, as are ways in which these are reproduced as well as reconfigured in the female monastery. Particular attention is also paid to solidarity from local monks with women’s controversial ordination projects in Chiang Mai. The book draws on concepts of practice and performitivity, ascetic charisma and protective power. In so doing it highlights processes by which female monastics in a Northern Thai context navigate fluid gender boundaries as they lay claim to Buddhist merit and spiritual potency of a kind long attributed in Thailand to monks. Inspired by a proposal put forward by Nicola Tannenbaum for the study of Thai gender, these findings are in turn linked to constructions of power and gendered access to it observed across Southeast Asia.

Additional information

Author

Editorial Board

Dr. Benjamin Baumann, Chief Editor
PD Dr. Daniel Bultmann
Prof. Caroline S. Hau
Prof. Vincent Houben
Prof. Peter A. Jackson
Prof. Guido Sprenger
Prof. Barend Jan Terwiel
Dr. Xue Li

Series Title

ISBN

Publication Date

May 31, 2024

No. of Pages

392

Size

Binding

Paperback

About the Series

Developments in the field of area studies – goaded by the analytical deconstruction of world regions as such – have deeply affected the knowledge production on societies and cultures located in these politicised compartmentalisation of the globe.
With this series, the editors and authors wish to contribute to a reformulation of area studies that emphasises the continuing epistemic value of contextualised knowledge production that is firmly rooted in concrete places.
Starting with the notion of Southeast Asia, books published in this series will contribute to a more nuanced understanding of regionality based on a multidisciplinary approach.
The series represents an outlet for young scholars intending to publish their degree theses and dissertations; and for established scholars who are looking for a place to republish out-of-print books, edited volumes or themed collections of their own papers and articles.
We also invite scholarly collectives to publish collaborative works or edited volumes on topics that usually will not attract the attention of big presses due to their transdisciplinary orientation or the niche character of their topic.
Our overall motivation is to maintain Southeast Asian studies as a critical and self-reflexive academic field.

About the author

Nicola Delia received her Magister Artium (master’s) degree in Social Anthropology (major), Thai Studies and Social Psychology (minors) from the University of Hamburg in 2015.This book is a revised and extended version of her Magister thesis.

Table of contents

CONTENTS
About the Series v
Preface vii
Choice of Terminologies xi
A Note on Transliteration and Translation xiii
Acknowledgements xv
Figures xxi
Abbreviations xxix
1
Introduction ………………………………………………………..1
The Backdrop ……………………………………………………………4
Mediating between Purity and Defilement ……………….14
Gender and Power in Representations
of Buddhist Nuns ……………………………………………………..21
Ethnographic Fieldwork at Nirodharam
Bhikkhunī Arama …………………………………………………….24
2
Gendered Access to Power in Thailand and Southeast Asia ……………………………………………………27
Thai Buddhist Constructions of Gender
and Merit …………………………………………………………………27
A Southeast Asian Perspective of Gender
and Power ………………………………………………………………..32
Merit, Protection and Renunciation in Thailand ………37
Menstrual Taboos, Women and the Sacred ………………44
Women between Renunciate Ambiguity
and Charisma …………………………………………………………..64
3
The Setting, the Community and a Way of Life ……………….79
Introducing Nirodharam ………………………………………………………….79
The Community ……………………………………………………………………….89
Creating a Renunciate Body ……………………………………………………..95
The Monastic ‘Way of Life’ ……………………………………………………..113
4
Contextualising Gender and Defilement ……………………….137
Downplaying and Respecting Beliefs in
Menstrual Pollution ………………………………………………………………..138
Reproducing and Redressing Gendered ‘Defilement’
and ‘Purity’ …………………………………………………………………………….142
A Discursive ‘Sanitisation’ of Menstrual Pollution? …………………148
Mental ‘Defilements’ (kilet): an Antithesis to
Spiritual ‘Purity’ ……………………………………………………………………..150
Chapter Summary ………………………………………………………………….161
5
Reconfiguring Gendered Access to Merit and Power ……..163
Restraint: a Powerful Platform for Negotiating Purity …………….164
The Emergence of a Charismatic Female Teacher ……………………177
Merit, Protection and Refuge in a Female Monastery ……………..195
Revisiting Gender and Action in the ‘Hierarchy of Merit’ ……….215
Chapter Summary ………………………………………………………………….231
6
The Potency of Restraint in the Face of Contestation …….235
Maintaining a Passive Stance ………………………………………………….236
Celibate Purity, Non-self and the Narrative
of Legitimacy ………………………………………………………………………….242
The Power of Heritage …………………………………………………………….252
Chapter Summary ………………………………………………………………….254
7
Bhikkhunī and the Power of Monks’ Protection ……………..257
Taking Refuge in Local Monks ……………………………………………….259
Northern Identities and Buddhist Revitalisation Projects ……….266
Recalling Bhikkhunī Imageries in Lan Na ……………………………….270
Re-inventing a Female Monastic Tradition ……………………………..274
Chapter Summary ………………………………………………………………….313
8
Summary and Conclusions ……………………………………………317
Mediating between Purity and Defilement ……………………………..318
Redressing Defilement and Accessing Powerful Domains ………321
GLOSSARY …………………………………………………..327
APPENDIX …………………………………………………..337
BIBLIOGRAPHY ……………………………………………341