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Worshipping relics and animating statues. Transformations of Buddhist statecraft in contemporary Laos


Ladwig, Patrice (2015). Worshipping relics and animating statues. Transformations of Buddhist statecraft in contemporary Laos. Modern Asian Studies, 49(6):1875-1902.

Abstract

In Laos—one of the few remaining ‘officially’ socialist countries—Buddhism was abolished as a state religion after the revolution in 1975. However, since the 1990s the communist government has been increasingly using its patronage of Buddhism to gain legitimacy. With reference to the divine sources of power in Theravāda Buddhism, this article explores the extent to which modern Lao state socialism is still imbued with pre-revolutionary patterns of Buddhist kingship and statecraft. The analysis will focus especially on ritual patronage of a Buddhist relic shrine and on the recent inauguration of statues of deceased kings in the Lao capital, Vientiane. With reference to the ritual animation of ‘opening the eyes’ of the statues, and with regard to theories exploring the agency of objects, I argue that the Lao palladium has to be understood as being made up of ‘living’ entities. Finally, the article explores to what extent the control, worship, and creation of statues and relics today are still essential for the legitimacy of rule in the Lao People's Democratic Republic.

Abstract

In Laos—one of the few remaining ‘officially’ socialist countries—Buddhism was abolished as a state religion after the revolution in 1975. However, since the 1990s the communist government has been increasingly using its patronage of Buddhism to gain legitimacy. With reference to the divine sources of power in Theravāda Buddhism, this article explores the extent to which modern Lao state socialism is still imbued with pre-revolutionary patterns of Buddhist kingship and statecraft. The analysis will focus especially on ritual patronage of a Buddhist relic shrine and on the recent inauguration of statues of deceased kings in the Lao capital, Vientiane. With reference to the ritual animation of ‘opening the eyes’ of the statues, and with regard to theories exploring the agency of objects, I argue that the Lao palladium has to be understood as being made up of ‘living’ entities. Finally, the article explores to what extent the control, worship, and creation of statues and relics today are still essential for the legitimacy of rule in the Lao People's Democratic Republic.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:National licences > 142-005
Dewey Decimal Classification:Unspecified
Language:English
Date:1 November 2015
Deposited On:22 Oct 2018 17:14
Last Modified:07 Apr 2020 07:11
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:0026-749X
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/s0026749x13000486
Related URLs:https://www.swissbib.ch/Search/Results?lookfor=nationallicencecambridge101017S0026749X13000486 (Library Catalogue)

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Content: Published Version
Language: English
Filetype: PDF (Nationallizenz 142-005) - Registered users only until 1 November 2020
Size: 228kB
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Embargo till: 2020-11-01