CFP: Buddhism and the Political Process, University of Toronto

The Department of Humanities, University of Toronto Scarborough
is pleased to present

A Call for Papers
The Tung Lin Kok Yuen Conference:


April 13-15, 2012
University of Toronto Scarborough

For more information:**

The Weberian perspective on Buddhism as a tradition in “…opposition to the spirit of politics in its most acute form” has, despite a great deal of empirical evidence to the contrary, held sway for a century. Silverstein’s view that “…Buddhists never made the intellectual leap from freedom in the religious realm to freedom in the political world” is a good recent example of this way of thinking.

Yet religious systems are not isolated phenomena but aspects of the total culture in which they are located. The apolitical reading of Buddhism has historical roots coinciding with European colonial rule that, in the words of Paul Mus, was only aware of “a kind of rump Buddhist society.” It was also associated with a primordialism that regarded Buddhism as a set of unchanging practices, or classical statements, tending to support a study of Buddhist history conducted in purely Buddhist terms.

Buddhist political influence has been strong in the contemporary period. The election of nine Sri Lankan monks representing the *Jathika Hela Urumaya*(National Sinhala Heritage Party) to the national parliament in April 2004 and Myanmar’s 2007 “saffron revolution” are glaring examples. Less well known are the lobbying activities of the Buddha Light Mountain (*Foguangshan *) monastic order in Taiwan’s 1996 Presidential election or the role played
by prominent religious personalities in ousting the Thaksin Shinawatra government in Thailand in 2006.

The proposed conference aims to construct a bridge between the disciplines of Buddhist studies and political science, with additional contributions from anthropologists, sociologists and historians, on the relevance of Buddhist categories and practices for the political process.The program committee accordingly invites proposals for papers that explore the interface between Buddhism and politics, particularly in the modern and contemporary periods. Contributors may focus on an Asian country, adopt a comparative perspective, or offer a more theoretical approach. Topics sought include but are not limited to:

– Kingship and alternative forms of governance
– Monastic protest movements
– Buddhist political parties
– The rhetoric of “nation-protection” and “religious nationalism”
– Buddhism as an ingredient in political conflict
– Debates over the role of Buddhism as a state religion
– Buddhist perspectives on Marxism, liberal capitalism and the “third way”
– Monks and the democratic processes – can and do they vote, belong to political parties, stand for public office, etc?
– Discernible differences between the Mah?y?na and Therav?da attitudes on political activism?
– Compatibility of the “Buddhist” state and liberal democracy?
– Utility of the Western political concepts, such as “civil society, in studies of the Buddhist religious sphere

This conference will address such questions through multiple formats for scholarly inquiry, namely organized panels with discussants, roundtables, keynotes lectures, and public events.

The program committee welcomes proposals for papers from academics, professionals, graduate students and others. Proposals that include a max. 300 word abstract of the paper and a short academic CV should be made online through our submissions site at:

At this website applicants can cut and paste both abstract and CV into our web form.

The deadline for submissions is Friday November 18, 2011. Participants will be notified by December 17th if their submission has been successful.

This conference is sponsored generously by an endowment for the advancement of Buddhist studies, made possible by a gift from the Tung Lin Kok Yuen Foundation (Hong Kong) to the University of Toronto Scarborough. Questions about this event or any other aspect of the Tung Lin Kok Yuen Conference Series in Buddhist Studies may be addressed to Sarah Richardson at: **