Pyrrhic Constitutionalism? Buddhism, Secularism and the Limits of Law in Sri Lanka

On Tuesday, September 24th, the South Asia Center of Syracuse University is pleased to welcome Benjamin Schonthal, Associate Professor of Buddhism and Asian Religions at the University of Otago.

Benjamin SchonthalOf the seven countries in South and Southeast Asia with majority- Buddhist populations, six give special status and/or protections to Buddhism in their constitutions. These constitutional prerogatives give clear symbolic prestige to the majority religion. Schonthal will discuss to what effect such prerogatives have on the ways in which citizens understand and practice Buddhism in their daily lives. Drawing on his most recent book, and ongoing research, he will consider these questions in the context of Sri Lanka- a country that, for the last four decades has given Buddhism “the foremost place” in its constitution. 

Benjamin Schonthal is an Associate Professor of Buddhism and Asian Religions and Associate Dean (International) for the Humanities Division at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Schonthal’s research examines the intersections of religion, law and politics in late-colonial and contemporary Southern Asia, with an emphasis on Buddhism and law in Sri Lanka. Schonthal is the author of Buddhism, Politics, and the Limits of Law (Cambridge University Press 2016) and a variety of scholarly articles in journals such as The Journal of Asian Studies, Modern Asian Studies, Journal of the American Academy of Religions, and the International Journal of Constitutional Law. His current research project, supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand, looks at the interactions of state law and Buddhist monastic law in nineteenth- and twentieth–century Southern Asia.

This talk will take place at 12:30pm in 341 Eggers Hall. We hope to see you there!

 Co-sponsored by Syracuse University College of Law and Department of Religion.