Suggested Topics: Choose 1 —& state which Topic you have chosen
- Apply some aspects of my interpretations of Religion in Political Conflict to one of the 3 cases we have studied in detail: the Sri Lankan civil war; Zen and the rise of Japanese militarism; or the Tibetan struggle with the People’s Republic of China. You may either indicate how you see my analysis illuminating the events and motivations involved; or ways in which my analysis is wanting, or needs refinement or modification in order better to analyze the situation as you perceive it.
- Apply Patrick Grant’s concept of ‘retrogressive inversion’ to a different example of Buddhism at war or in political conflict from the one he studies (Sri Lanka), in order to analyze the rationales and discourse involved in your example conflict.
- Compare and contrast Zen and the rise of Japanese militarism and the Tibetan struggle with the People’s Republic of China in terms of the role of the Buddhist religion in those conflicts, especially how Buddhists respond to their perceived adversaries in each case.
- Choose a different conflict that has included Buddhists in the struggle (e.g. recent events in Burma, or Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia) and describe the similarities and differences you see between your case study and at least one of those we’ve studied in class as to how the Buddhist religion played a role in those conflicts. You will need first to do some detailed research into this example, and include some history and characterization of the conflict in your essay.
- Let us assume international politics from the 19th-century on involves applying methods to express power as a means to gain advantages for one’s own nation state relative to others. By examining one episode or situation in any of the three cases studied in detail in this class, show how the religion of Buddhism affected such an expression of power – either by contributing to it, providing the means, manipulating a population to participate, or alternatively, by discouraging or diverting such power-motivated national energies away from conflict or power politics. Yet another option could be that you see a way in which Buddhists could have played a constructive role, but for some reason (related to their religion, at least in part) they crucially failed to. Analyze your chosen instance in terms of the political forces at work, including the Buddhist religion. Be careful to write an introduction that clearly stipulates which of these various options you are choosing to think through, and how your chosen instance sets up your analysis of Buddhism in relation to political power.
- In my ms-book Chapter 3, pages 3f (in Files on Canvas), I propose four ‘degrees of recognizability’ by which religions may be perceived to influence or play a role in cultures and societies. Building on my analysis and examples there, closely analyze one of the 3 case studies from this course (or some aspect of them) to show how the Buddhist religion can be seen playing roles that have one (or more) of these ‘degrees of recognizability,’ so as to help explain that culture, and by extension its conflicted political situation, in light of this religious analysis.
- In light of my analysis of religion in political conflict, do you now consider that certain defining characteristics of Buddhism (e.g. the relationship between the religious professionals and common people, whether believers or not; Buddhism’s particular emphasis on nonviolent ideals; Buddhism’s distinctive metaphysics such as impermanence/anatta/sunyata-emptiness) cause it to create different dynamics in conflict situations from other religions – or not? Explain your answer in detail.
- Is there any one aspect of my analysis of Religion in Political Conflict that our examination of Buddhism at War has convinced you needs to be revised or rescinded? Explain in detail, with specific reference to cases we studied in this course.