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Saving BuddhismThe Impermanence of Religion in Colonial Burma$
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Alicia Turner

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780824839376

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824839376.001.0001

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(p.1) 1 Introduction
Saving Buddhism

Alicia Turner

University of Hawai'i Press

This book examines the ways in which Buddhist discourse shaped a sense of collective belonging distinct from nation by focusing on Burma's colonial history. More specifically, it considers how Burmese Buddhists in the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century contested colonial categories that impinged on their lives and ultimately renegotiated the terms of colonialism. The book looks at the local conflicts and confrontations in which Burmese Buddhists chose to engage as well as the ways in which they brought together divergent aspects of Buddhist discourse and colonial innovations to create new means of understanding themselves individually and collectively. Three formative discourses set in motion by the colonial encounter during the period 1890–1920 are explored: the concept of sāsana, collective belonging organized through moral community, and the category of religion. The book analyzes the worldview and inner workings of the discourse of sāsana as one alternative to the logics of nationalism and colonial modernity.

Keywords:   colonialism, Burma, colonial history, Burmese Buddhists, colonial encounter, sāsana, collective belonging, religion, nationalism, colonial modernity

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