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.
Of 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.
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.