Extracting Religion in Myanmar

Extracting Religion in Myanmar

Alexandra Kaloyanides, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Attention to natural resources and their extractive labor sheds new light on the co-formation of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam in Myanmar. Myanmar’s natural resources have long shaped its religious life. Gold mined from its rivers covers the country’s towering pagodas. Teak from its tropical forests built the last Buddhist royal capital. Rubies from upland regions adorn Gotama statues. And rare earth metals extracted from conflict zones finance the contemporary military regime. Throughout its history Myanmar’s ruling powers claimed they had a natural right to monopolize extractive industries in service to the Buddhist tradition. With a focus on artifacts and texts from Burma’s Konbaung period (1752–1885 CE), this presentation argues that Burmese political and religious institutions used extractive industries to fashion Buddhist sovereignty. Along the way, it demonstrates how attention to natural resources and extractive labor changes the structure of relationships in religious history.

Alexandra Kaloyanides is an associate professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She is the author of Baptizing Burma: Religious Change in the Last Buddhist Kingdom (Columbia University Press 2023, winner of the Claremont Prize for the Study of Religion from the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life at Columbia University). Her writing has appeared in the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Journal of Burma Studies, SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, Asian Ethnology, Material Religion, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, MAVCOR Journal, Journal of Global Buddhism, Church History, Religions, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, and Marginalia Review of Books.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024
12:00 Noon
Room 203, Luce Hall
34 Hillhouse Avenue

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