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41. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Matthew Robertson The Autophagous Absolute: Revelations of Cosmic and Sovereign Violence in the Bhagavad Gītā and the Taittirīya Upaniṣad
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A key function of the autophagous imagery ascribed to Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavad Gītā (BhG) is to reassert long-held Brahmanical convictions about the role of violence in politics, and thereby to respond to anxieties about the association of sovereignty with violent action. This essay examines the textual roots of these convictions, found in the depiction of the autophagous knower of brahman in Taittirīya Upaniṣad (TU), in order to assess the socio-historical significance of the BhG’s imagery of Kṛṣṇa as an autophagous absolute. By discerning the links between the TU’s and BhG’s depictions of autophagy, I argue that the BhG forwards a renewed cosmological justification for the performance of violent acts by kṣatriyas that relies especially upon the alliance between priestly and political/martial powers, and that therefore seeks to elevate Brahmanical paradigms of sovereignty over those that question the necessity of violence in the exercise of political power.
42. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Courtney Work “There Was So Much”: Violence, Sovereignty, and States of Extraction in Cambodia
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Anthropologists debate the usefulness of an “Ontological Turn” in theory and practice as a way to confront the social and ecological disjuncture at the heart of the Anthropocene. Is it possible, scholars wonder, to validate rather than rationalize the idea that mountains, rivers, and trees are social interlocutors as well as arbiters of justice, resource access, and societal well-being? In a twist of monumental irony, previously market-independent Cambodians are facing, in an odious confluence of fear, need, and desire, an ontological turn toward the rationalized notion that trees, mountains, rivers and all their inhabitants are important primarily as commodities that can be converted to money. This paper explores part of that nexus of fear, need, and desire through accounts of social relationships with the “owner of the water and the land,” whose permission is sought for territorial access and resource use. Successful navigation of relationships with the original owner of the territory require respect, solidarity, conservation, and offerings of gratitude. In return people enjoy resource abundance, ritual/technical knowledge, and good health. Improper comportment results in illness, loss of access to forest and water resources, and knowledge loss. In yet another ironic twist, the Development State (defined within) promises poverty alleviation, education, and health care for all those who master the extractive market economy. The paper explores how different ontologies give rise to particular social, political, and economic possibilities, and demonstrates that the punishments of the Original owner of the water and the land are visited upon those who either will not or cannot successfully navigate the extractive market system.
43. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Daniel Burton-Rose The Literati-Official Victimization Narrative: Memorializing Donglin Martyrs in Eighteenth-Century Suzhou
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This article describes the Confucian cycle of apotheosis in which deceased sages and worthies served as a model for the living who in turn aspired to become paragons for future generations, thereby achieving a form of immortality. It explores the way in which victimhood was strategically employed to perpetuate power relations beneficial to local landowners through a case study of support over a hundred and fifty year period by a major familial lineage in the Yangzi delta region for one of the most prominent victims of factional violence in the late Ming dynasty (1368–1644): Donglin current member Zhou Shunchang (1584–1626). Influential patriarchs in the Peng familial lineage of Suzhou cultivated indignation in local society about the injustices suffered by righteous literati-officials such as Zhou Shunchang. The driving motivation of the Pengs’ memorialization of Zhou was to decry physical harm of literati-officials by state agents and to perpetuate the Donglin current program of governance centered on the counsel of literati-officials. In continuing Zhou’s memory through textual and ritual interventions, the Pengs put forward a vision of local autonomy while simultaneously aligning their own interests with those of the Manchu Qing (1644-1911) rulers.
44. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 6 > Issue: 1
Huan Jin Violence and the Evolving Face of Yao in Taiping Propaganda
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This paper explores the interplay between rhetorical and political violence during the Taiping Civil War (1851–1864). Specifically, I examine how yao 妖, a conception bearing many cultural and historical connotations, was profusely employed in Taiping propaganda and in individual testimonies reflecting traditional political and religious beliefs. In extant Taiping placards, the Taiping rebels used xiwen 檄文, the prose of “call to arms,” to persuade people to take up the Taiping cause and to solicit and justify violence. With the compilation and extensive distribution of these xiwen, visions of violence were disseminated among the masses. Drawing inspirations from ancient historical narratives, vernacular literature, and popular religion, the Taiping rebels ingeniously used yao to refer to demonic existences that should be extinguished with the Heavenly vision. In its versatility, the meaning of yao transmuted as the Taiping movement developed. At the beginning of the movement, yao was used broadly to refer to the Taiping’s religious opponents, however, since 1853, it became a core political and religious concept used to refer to the Manchus and their supporters. Nevertheless, the meaning of yao continued to transform as the Taiping rebels sought to convert local Han militias who were fighting for the Qing government. Ironically, the Han literati conversely used yao to describe the war and the Taiping rebels. When yao was associated broadly with the Manchus, Qing loyalists, and the Taiping rebels, its dehumanizing power became a force of destructive violence beyond comprehension.
45. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
Stephen Jenkins The Violent Subjugation of a History of Violence: The Taming of the Demons: Violence and Liberation in Tibetan Buddhism. By Jacob P. Dalton
46. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
John Kelsay Comparative Studies of Religion and Violence: Perspectives on the Current State of Scholarly Conversation
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This article provides a brief introduction to articles reflecting on the current state of conversation regarding religion and violence. I begin by noting the occasion for which the articles were developed, then note some of the points made by each of the authors.
47. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
Michael Jerryson Buddhist Cultural Regulations of Violence
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Buddhist communities worldwide have been energized by the recent politicized violence in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. These acts of Buddhist-influenced violence have mobilized transnational Buddhist groups in condemnation and in support of the violence. As evinced through recent examples, the ambivalence of the sacred exists in religious traditions, including Buddhism. This article reviews these examples and looks at the larger challenge of including Buddhism within comparative works on religion and violence. Instead of focusing solely on textual sources and doctrine, this essay argues that it is important for scholars to include cultural forms of religious authority in order to better understand and to address Buddhist-inspired acts of violence.
48. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
Nahed Artoul Zehr Assessing the Current State of Conversation on Islam and the Cultural Regulation of Armed Force
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This piece provides a pithy analysis of past, current, and future works dealing with the moral regulation of armed force in Islam. It provides suggestions for two issues that those interested in the moral regulation of force ought to consider in moving forward.
49. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
Torkel Brekke Bridging the Gap Between Ancient and Modern in the Study of Religion and Violence in India
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There has been little dialogue between academic communities studying ancient India and scholars working on violence in modern India. Part of the reason has been suspicion concerning the ideological foundations of Indology amongst social scientists and modern historians. To better understand religious violence in today’s India the historical perspectives need to be taken into account.
50. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
G. Scott Davis The Elimination of “Violence” in Just War Thinking
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This article applauds the rich collection of texts assembled by Reichberg, Syse, and Hartwell, but agrees with the other commentators that those texts must be situated in their social time and place if they are to be understood. Furthermore, the term “violence” is analytically worthless and should be eliminated from our critical vocabulary as an impediment to understanding how different communities have attempted to regulate recourse to lethal force in the pursuit of their ends.
51. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
Reuven Firestone War Policies in Judaism as Responses to Power and Powerlessness
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The premise underlying this article is that religions, like all institutions, do what is necessary to endure. Like other religions, Judaism has adjusted survival strategies ranging from quietism to militarism. The Jews of antiquity engaged actively and successfully in bloody wars that were considered to be divinely and ethically sanctioned, but after crushing defeats against the Roman Empire, militant responses to communal threat came to be regarded as self-destructive. “Holy war” was then removed from the repertoire of Jewish endurance strategies through the development of safeguards intended to prevent zealots from declaring war and thus endangering a weak and dispersed community. This move was sustainable within a particular historical context, which lasted until the modern period. Following traumatic modern pogroms and the Holocaust, however, military passivity came to be regarded as endangering Jewish survival. Consequently, the traditional safeguards were effectively removed for a significant sector of Jews, thereby allowing for a return to biblical-influenced militancy.
52. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
Rosemary B. Kellison Texts and Traditions in the Comparative Study of Religion, Morality, and Violence
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In this response to the commentaries by Torkel Brekke, Reuven Firestone, Michael Jerryson, and Nahed Zehr on Religion, War, and Ethics, I reflect on the ways in which these commentaries help to illuminate the role that texts play in the construction and reconstruction of moral traditions. I describe the texts in the anthology as contributions to ongoing conversations in which participants draw on precedential texts to authorize, prohibit, endorse, or condemn particular uses of armed force. As a collection that places these texts side by side, Religion, War, and Ethics helpfully enables both intratraditional comparison demonstrating the diversity of positions within any one tradition and intertraditional comparison illustrating similarities and differences in both the arguments and historical development of different religious traditions’ discussions of ethics of war. I conclude with some cautions regarding how such comparison is best carried out.
53. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
M. Christian Green The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Security. Edited by Chris Seiple, Dennis R. Hoover, and Pauletta Otis
54. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 3 > Issue: 3
Ryan J. Williams Sacred Violence: Political Religion in a Secular Age. By David Martin Jones and M. L. R. Smith
55. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Michael Jerryson Introduction: Buddhism, Blasphemy, and Violence
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This special issue explores the relationship between Buddhism and blasphemy. The articles chart new territory within the study of religion and violence and Buddhist Studies. The first essay outlines the Indian Buddhist doctrinal and ethical foundations for such an inquiry. The second, third, and fourth essays locate their examination within a particular Buddhist tradition: Burmese Buddhism and the prosecution of anti-blasphemy laws, Thai Buddhism and its jailing of people for insulting photographs, and Mongolian Buddhist concerns over purity and sacrilege in early twentieth-century monastic education
56. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Stephen Jenkins Debate, Magic, and Massacre: The High Stakes and Ethical Dynamics of Battling Slanderers of the Dharma in Indian Narrative and Ethical Theory
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This paper examines Indian Buddhist debate narratives, royal historiographies, and hagiographies in conjunction with Buddhist systematic thought on wrong-view, wrong-speech, slander and the sins of immediate retribution. Buddhists narratives are rich with examples of debates in which the wealth and estates of both monastic institutions and their donors were at stake. Forced conversion is a common feature. Slandering the Dharma had a direct relationship to sins considered forms of harm to the Buddha, such as confiscation of property or desecration of sacred objects, and defined as the worst sins leading directly to hell. Buddhist texts often denigrate others’ beliefs and practices and, although their responses to being reviled preclude anger, use of force against enemies of Buddhism is modeled by the Buddha, ideal kings, deities, and wizards. Many examples of mass violence by Buddhist kings against those who oppose the Dharma or harm its saints are exhibited.
57. Journal of Religion and Violence: Volume > 4 > Issue: 2
Paul Fuller The Idea of ‘Blasphemy’ in the Pāli Canon and Modern Myanmar
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There are many terms in the Pāli Canon that refer to “disrespect” committed against venerated objects or people. Some of these ideas come close to the idea of “blasphemy” in other religious traditions. In traditional forms of Buddhism, the stress is on protective and auspicious acts. Images, texts and chanting are partly concerned with averting danger. Primarily it is the Buddha (and images of him), because of his great meritorious and ethical deeds, who accomplishes this. In this context blasphemy against sacred objects is a perfectly coherent idea in Buddhism. In Myanmar, monks from the Ma Ba Tha movement have expressed outrage at what they perceived to be the manipulation of images of the Buddha. These will be compared to ideas in the Pāli Canon to suggest how the idea of blasphemy is a constant feature in the history of Buddhism.
58. 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.
59. 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.
60. 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