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Buddhist Violence and Religious Authority

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Buddhist Violence and Religious Authority is a tribute to the work of Michael Jerryson, one of the initiators of the academic discourse on Buddhism and violence, whose intellectual pursuits have resulted in a trailblazing shift in the academic study of Buddhism.

Preconceived in the modern west as a pacific, chiefly meditative practice aiming for personal salvation and world peace, Buddhism has been exposed in the last few decades for its manifold legacy of violence. This is apparent not only in Buddhist groups’ history of support for actual military aims, but in Buddhism’s association with religious nationalism and in its more subtle expressions of discursive and structural violence. This exposure is due in significant part to Michael Jerryson who, in addition to exploring this perhaps surprising Buddhist history, has investigated the dynamism of Buddhist authority. Most recently in his critique of U Wirathu, the Burmese Buddhist monk whose advocacy of Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar has stirred a boiling pot of anti-Muslim resentments, Michael Jerryson has shown that reverence for Burmese religious authorities transcends respect for traditional Buddhist doctrine and monastic accomplishments. It emanates instead from the phenomenon of religious authority itself and from the cultural institutions which support it. His examinations have resulted in heightened sensitivity to the sociology of religious authority and violence.

The scholarly contributions in this volume include discussions of Buddhism and violence, religious authority and nationalism, whether Buddhist, Christian, white, or other.

Published: Oct 5, 2022

Book Contributors

Section Chapter Authors
A Tribute to the Work of Michael Jerryson Mark Juergensmeyer, Margo Kitts
Section I: Buddhism and Violence
1. Reflections on the Papers of Section I Stephen Jenkins
2. Dharma and its Discontents: The Case of Kumārajīva John M. Thompson
3. Buddhists, Politics and International Law Ben Schonthal
4. Exorcizing the Body Politic: The Lion’s Roar, Köten Ejen’s Two Bodies and the Question of Conversion at the Tibet-Mongol Interface Matthew King
5. De-Centering the Normative in the Introduction to Buddhism Class Nathan McGovern
6. But is it Buddhist? Blaze Marpet
7. Humanizing the Rohingya Beyond Victimization: A Portrait Grisel d'Elena
Section II: Religious Authority
8. Introduction to Section II Matthew Walton
9. Contested Authority: Evangelicalism as a Cultural System Julie Ingersoll
10. Jerryson’s “Exposure of Buddhism” and the Christian Religio-Cultural Legacy of Violence in U.S. War-Culture Kelly Denton-Borhaug
11. Making Authority from Apocalypse: Three Cases from Classical Islam Jamel Velji
12. Affect in the Archives: Representations of Violence in Late Ancient Apocalyptic Texts Abby Kulitsz
13. Religion, Authority Grammar: The Scholarly Legacy of Secular Concepts Andrew Atwell
End Matter
Index Margo Kitts, Mark Juergensmeyer


This anthology, written as a tribute to the work of Michael Jerryson and edited by his long-term collaborators Margo Kitts and Mark Juergensmeyer, reflects these layered aspects of Jerryson’s scholarship in an excellent way. At first glance, the book’s cover and introductory pages give the impression of delivering yet another discussion on whether Buddhists’ igniting violence is at odds with Buddhism or not, a question that over the years has been excessively debated. However, reading the rich and diverse contributions to the book, it becomes clear that the topic has matured to spur new and fruitful analyses concerning the role of Buddhism in society and religion in society.
Journal of Buddhist Ethics