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21. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Matthew King Giving Milk to Snakes: A Socialist “Dharma Minister” and a “Stubborn” Monk on How to Reject the Dharma in Revolutionary Buryatia and Khalkha
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This article explores the blasphemy concept in relation to the historical study of competing visions of doctrine and institutional modeling in revolutionary-era Mongolia and Buryatia (c. 1911–1940). I focus on a close reading of a previously unstudied letter exchange between a prominent socialist leader and Buddhist reformer named Ts. Zhamtsarano and a conservative (Khalkha) Mongol abbot that disputed reforms aiming to allow the laity to study alongside monks in monastic settings. In relation to those sources, I reject a straightforward application of “blasphemy” as an analytical category. However, noting that micro-encounters such as that of the reformer and the abbot not only reference, but actively produce, macro-level social registers and institutions (like Buddhism, “the monastic college,” Tibet, Mongolia, and the like), I argue that in these materials we do see the generative practices of rejection and extension of received tradition that the blasphemy concept (especially in its Islamic iterations) expresses. Such a process-based analytic, motivated by “blasphemy” but not a straightforward application of it to Buddhist case studies, is immensely useful in the comparative study of social and intellectual history in Buddhist societies, especially during periods of profound socio-political transition.
22. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Shane Strate The Sukhothai Incident: Buddhist Heritage, Mormon Missionaries, and Religious Desecration in Thailand
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In 1972, two Mormon missionaries were arrested in Thailand on charges that they had insulted Buddhism. Photographic evidence of their offensive behavior appeared in national newspapers, and for weeks the press debated the meaning and significance of their crime. This article examines the media’s reaction to the “Sukhothai Incident,” and situates the controversy within the larger context of Thai anxieties regarding the influence of ‘Americanization’ on local culture. It argues that Thai elites used the incident to promote pre-existing nationalist narratives that warned against the destructive influences of Western materialism, Christianity, and neo-colonialism. Reaction to the case became a touchstone that separated true defenders of “Thai-ness” from those “outside the religion.” The incident illustrates how ruling factions perceived that the American presence, not just Communism, threatened to undermine traditional symbols of authority.
23. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Don J. Wyatt Emperor Wu Zhao and Her Pantheon of Devis, Divinities, and Dynastic Mothers. By N. Harry Rothschild
24. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Lorenz Graitl Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons. By Banu Bargu
25. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Mun’im Sirry Fighting Words: Religion, Violence, and the Interpretation of Sacred Texts. Edited by John Renard
26. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Mehmet Karabela Martyrdom in Modern Islam: Piety, Power, and Politics. By Meir Hatina
27. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Beatriz Reyes-Foster The Devil Made Her Do it: Understanding Suicide, Demonic Discourse, and the Social Construction of ‘Health’ in Yucatan, Mexico
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In the state of Yucatan, Mexico, the suicide rate more than doubles the Mexican national average. This article uses ethnographic data to argue that 1) local understandings of suicide in Yucatán reflect a logic of health among Yucatec Maya people hinging on the belief that spiritual, bodily, and spatial balance must be maintained in order to prevent “illness,” understood as bodily and spiritual suffering; and 2) that Yucatec Maya users of Mexico’s public health system readily adapt the biomedical model to existing paradigms that comingle spiritual, mental, and bodily health due in great part to the inherent contradictions in bothsystems that simultaneously attribute responsibility for suicide and take it away. This apparent contradiction is thus a sympathetic template on which biomedical discourse and its imperfect application can map itself.
28. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Rebecca Moore Rhetoric, Revolution and Resistance in Jonestown, Guyana
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Initial reports of the deaths that occurred in Jonestown, Guyana in November 1978 characterized them as mass suicides. As accounts of the deaths of children and old people emerged, however, the events began to be described as murder, especially by conspiracy theorists. But scholarship in New Religions studies over the last three decades has begun to claim that at least some of the deaths for some of the people were a type of martyrdom. A narrative of martyrdom pervaded life in Jonestown, as well as life within Peoples Temple, the group sponsoring the agricultural commune. Jim Jones, the group’s leader, appropriated and re-interpreted the Black Panther Party rhetoric of revolutionary suicide, calling upon residents to lay down their lives to protest capitalism. This act of protest was rehearsed many times in Jonestown, and in the Temple in the U.S. Some survivors who lived in Jonestown challenge the assertion that residents took these rehearsals seriously, although a number of audiotapes have parents providing the justification for killing their children to save them from torture; others on tape state that they are taking their own lives as a rejection of capitalism. In any event, by killing the children first, the mass suicides of the parents seemed virtually assured.
29. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Lynn S. Neal Suicide and Cultural Memory in Functional Television
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As the central storyteller in and of American life, television has played a profound role in the maintenance and dissemination of the cult stereotype. By emphasizing these stereotypical features, television shows firmly situate cults as abnormal and dangerous entities on the American religious landscape. Many of these televised portrayals include issues of cult violence, specifically suicide. This article analyzes how fictional American television shows from South Park to CSI have depicted the relationship between cults and suicide. In addition to episode analysis, this article addresses the role that popular culture plays in perpetuating anti-cult ideas and attitudes.
30. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Christopher Hartney Why Muslims Kill Themselves on Film: From Girard’s Victimage Mechanism to a Radical Constructivist Explanation
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In this article a methodological approach to representations of suicide on film is developed, sited between the Girardian victimage approach on one side, and a radical constructivist approach on the other. The argument does not start by considering Muslim suicide as a thing in and of itself; rather it contextualises suicide on film through examples ranging from adaptations of Romeo and Juliette by Zeffirelli and Luhrmann, to Ashby's Harold and Maude, Coppola's The Virgin Suicides, and Sono's Suicide Club. With thematics on cinema and suicide identified in this section of the article, the second half of the work demonstrateshow such thematics are developed or distorted when Muslim characters are introduced to the screen. The four case studies in this section include analysis on recent film examples. These include the Hollywood produced The Kingdom (directed by Peter Berg) and Gaghan's Syriana. It is clearly established that where Hollywood pays attention to white people who may be considering suicide and dedicates significant screen time to them, Hollywood presents Muslims as inherently suicidal. This fits into Jack Shaheen's work on racist stereotypes in the presentation of Arabs by Hollywood. To confirm this, the article concludes byanalyzing the place of suicide in Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry, and Abu-Assad's Paradise Now. The article concludes with an examination not of suicide per se, but of how suicide is represented generally in film, how layers of Arab and Muslim stereotypes in Hollywood have, almost criminally, distorted representations of Muslims on screen, and how serious and considered work by Muslim directors are not so much redressing this balance, but rather highlighting how impervious the Hollywood system is to redressing its long held biases.
31. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Helen Farley Self-Harm and Falun Gong: Karmic Release, Martyrdom or Suicide
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The teachings of Falun Gong explicitly forbid suicide, yet in 2001, five protesters set themselves ablaze in Tiananmen Square resulting in the death of two. Allegedly, their stated aim was to bring the world’s focus onto the repression of the movement by the Chinese government. Falun Gong spokespeople were quick to speak out in defence of founder Li Hongzhi, saying that the movement strictly forbids suicide in line with the traditional Chinese belief that says that suicide is an affront to the ancestors. They further claimed that the Chinese government had staged the suicides in order to stir up public opinion against the movement andindeed the tide of public opinion did turn against Falun Gong and its founder (Bell and Boas 2003, 285).Even given Falun Gong’s stated opposition to suicide, the movement does encourage its adherents to refuse to take medicine or accept medical treatment and some consider this refusal of treatment could be considered to be suicidal. Chinese state media seized upon Li's writing in which he expressed that illnesses are caused by karma, and claimed that in excess of 1000 deaths were the direct result of adherents following Li’s teachings. Authorities also maintain that several hundred practitioners had cut their stomachs open looking for the Dharma Wheel that turns in response to the practice of the five meditative exercises characteristic of the movement. Indeed, many of their fellow followers had been arrested in Tianjin, following condemnation of their movement by physicist He Zouxiu of the Chinese Academy of the Sciences. He had claimed that Falun Gong had been responsible for several deaths (Bejsky 2004, 190).This paper will examine the complex relationship between FalunGong and the Chinese government, exploring the reality behind the claims and counterclaims in relation to the former’s stated opposition to suicide. This will be contrasted with other Falun Gong writings which encourage adherents to refuse medical treatment and medication in order to rid themselves of karma.
32. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Kjersti Hellesøy Special Issue: Suicide: Why Do People Kill Themselves In The Name Of Religion?
33. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Katarina Plank Living torches of Tibet – Religious and Political Implications of the Recent Self-Immolations
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Self-immolation is not an ordinary suicide or self-destructive act, but has a religious dimension since one’s own body is seen as a gift for a greater cause. This article highlights the specific Buddhist ritual and textual heritage when analyzing the recent wave of self-immolations in Tibet, and incorporates the act in a wider Buddhist set of practices called ”gift of the body”. The first political sacrifices made in the 1960s intended to save Buddhism at a time when it was perceived as being threatened in South Vietnam, and later focus shifted towards bringing an end to the Vietnam War. As a result, their sacrifices were addressed to Vietnamese politicians and to the global community. Nearly fifty years later, a new wave of self-immolations have occurred in Tibet – with previously no tradition of self-immolation – and this time, the fiery suicides by Tibetan monks and former monks can be seen as an expression of the nationalist struggle for a free Tibet.
34. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Aryeh Cohen Holy War in Judaism: The Fall and Rise of a Controversial Idea. By Reuven Firestone
35. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
John R. Hall From Jeremiad to Jihad: Religion, Violence, and America. Ed. John D. Carlson and Jonathan H. Ebel; foreword by Martin Marty
36. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Kenneth Burres When Religion Becomes Lethal: The Explosive Mix of Politics and Religion in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. By Charles Kimball
37. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Georgette Mulunda Ledgister Displacing the State: Religion and Conflict in Neoliberal Africa. Edited by James Howard Smith and Rosalind I. J. Hackett
38. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Jack Lee Downey Dying They Live: Suicide Protesting and Martyrdom
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This paper will investigate the contemporary phenomenon of Tibetan autocremations, considering them as responses to Chinese colonization, in the larger contexts of self-mortification and political protest. The Tibetan self-immolations have been chronically underreported in the international media, but have elicited charged internal conversations within the Tibetan and allied communities. As a modern protest tactic, autocremation originated with the Saigon immolation of the Vietnamese monk Thích Quảng Ðức in 1963. As then, the current cycle of Tibetan self-immolations inaugurated some debate about the nature of these acts, and how they are to be interpreted as agentive manifestations of “communicative suffering”—whether these are suicides, patriotic sacrifices, religious offerings, or something altogether different. This renders the Tibetan pawos (Tib. heroes, martyrs) themselves as sites of conflict—conflict over their “message,” who is ultimately responsible, and what can or should be done. This essay uses the theoretical insights of Giorgio Agamben, Banu Bargu, and Michael Biggs to think through self-immolation protests within a mystical-political framework that constructs these acts as martyrdoms.
39. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Philip L. Tite Expressive Violence: An Introduction to Pain, Politics, and the Monstrous Other
40. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 2
Nathan S. French An American TakfĪr?: Violence and Law at War
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Throughout the ongoing U.S.-declared war against terrorism, and the various jihadi-salafi responses to the same, relatively few researchers have considered both parties’ usage of the law as a technique of exclusion for authorizing violence against those who may not otherwise be killed. By comparing the underlying logic of takfīr applied by jihadi-salafi authors such as Abū Muḥammad al-Maqdisī (b. 1959) to the legal calculus used by the Obama administration to legitimate its targeted killings of U.S. citizens Anwar al-ʿAwlaqī and Samīr Khān seemingly without trial, this article identifies and analyzes how the juridical logic of the administration and jihadi-salafis possesses similar reliance upon declarations of an imminent threat and violations of norms of humanity and belief, respectively. Such a realization, it concludes, allows for the possibility of exploring a co-implicative logic of violence to both and, second, the possibility for a critique of declared states of emergency upon which such exclusionary techniques depend.