On 13 September, UNSW Law will host a seminar by Dr Ben Schonthal on 'What is Buddhist Constitutionalism?'
His paper argues that there is a unique form of theocratic constitutionalism that appears in the Buddhist-majority countries of South and Southeast Asia and that scholars of constitutional law ought to pay attention to it. Taking insights from existing work on Islamic constitutionalism, this paper insists that this form of constitutionalism –which he calls Buddhist constitutionalism – can be analysed in terms of the core regulatory dilemmas that define it. At the center of Buddhist constitutionalism are not questions about the links between sacred and secular injunctions (as is the case in Islamic constitutionalism), but questions about the relationship between state officials and Buddhist monks, civil authority and ecclesiastical authority. Through detailed, comparative analysis of Sri Lanka and Thailand, his article explores the histories of Buddhist constitutionalism in South and Southeast Asia, as well as the divergent forms that it has taken. He also reflects on how particular forms of Buddhist constitutionalism have contributed to the perpetuation of certain types of regulatory conflicts over religion.
Biography of Speaker
Ben Schonthal is Senior Lecturer in Buddhism and Asian Religions at the University of Otago, in New Zealand. He received his Ph.D. in the field of History of Religions at the University of Chicago, where his dissertation recieved the 2013 Law & Society Association Dissertation Award. Ben's research examines the intersections of religion, law and politics in late-colonial and contemporary Southern Asia, with a particular focus on Buddhism and law in Sri Lanka. Ben's first book, Buddhism, Politics and the Limits of Law, is due to be published with Cambridge University Press in September of this year. In July, Ben received the Otago University Early Career Award for Distinction in Research. His current research project, supported by the Marsden Fund of the Royal Society of New Zealand, examines the lived practices of monastic law in contemporary Sri Lanka and their links with state-legal structures.
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The seminar will be held from 4-5pm in the staff common room, level 2, Law School, UNSW, Kensington campus, Sydney.