Making Fields of Merit
Buddhist Female Ascetics and Gendered Orders in Thailand
Monica Lindberg Falk
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Religion plays a central role in Thai society with Buddhism intertwined in the daily lives of the people. Religion also plays an important role in establishing gender boundaries. The growth in recent decades of self-governing nunneries and the increasing interest of Thai women in a Buddhist monastic life are notable changes in the religion/gender dynamic. This anthropological study considers religion and gender relations through the lens of the lives, actions, and roles in Thai society of Buddhist nuns (mae chii).
- Published: 2008
- Subject Listing: Asian Studies / Southeast Asia; Anthropology; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
- Bibliographic information: 320 pp., 16 illus., 6 x 9 in.
- Territorial rights: North America Only
- Series: Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies
Making Fields of Merit presents a unique ethnography of Thai Buddhist nuns, examines what it implies to be a female ascetic in contemporary Thailand, and analyzes how the ordained state for women fits into the wider gender patterns found in Thai society. The study also deals with the nuns' agency in creating religious space and authority for women. It raises questions about how the position of Thai Buddhist nuns outside the Buddhist sangha affects their religious legitimacy and describes recent moves to restore a Theravada order of female monks.
Monica Lindberg Falk is a research fellow at the Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies at Lund University in Sweden. Her work focuses on gender, religion, and social change in Thailand.
1. Introduction. Buddhist female ascetics in Thai society
2. Gender orders and gendering renunciation - past and present
3. Themes of going forth
4. Transcending the lay realm
5. Mai chii communities and the making of a mai chii
6. Gender and the fields of merit
7. A religious field in transition
8. Mai chiis' quest for education
9. Struggles for legal recognition
10. Summary and conclusions