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The Lama QuestionViolence, Sovereignty, and Exception in Early Socialist Mongolia$
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Christopher Kaplonski

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780824838560

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824838560.001.0001

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Counting (on) the Living Gods

Counting (on) the Living Gods

(p.85) Chapter 4 Counting (on) the Living Gods
The Lama Question

Christopher Kaplonski

University of Hawai'i Press

Buddhist reincarnations - “living gods” as they were popularly known - were the most powerful and influential members of the Buddhist establishment, and as such demand special attention. This chapter examines not only steps taken to combat their influence, but also lists of reincarnations that the government compiled. These lists serve as a window into issues of governmentality and knowledge. The “living gods” represented a special group, who could not simply be killed, and they necessitate rethinking both of Agamben’s “bare life” and the conception of the population, which is at the heart of work on governmentality. In them the socialist government faced a group with too much meaning rather than a group that could be dehumanized and eliminated. This chapter thus probes the limit conditions of governmentality and its relation to the state of exception.

Keywords:   bare life, governmentality, reincarnations, political violence, state of exception, Mongolia, political anthropology, Buddhism, socialism

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