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Buddhist salvation and the
Edoardo Siani

This chapter applies theories on political theology of sovereignty to contemporary Buddhist Thailand. Based on ethnographic data collected in 2016 in Bangkok, it analyses how a public relations campaign helped legitimise the mandate of the military junta after the passing of King Bhumibol and in the face of pressing calls for popular sovereignty. Organised at a luxury shopping mall, the campaign contained the emergence of a political theology of the people by celebrating the late monarch, venerated for his work in development, as a celestial being. Via astute cosmological framing, the campaign then proposed a new celestial-cum-social political order. It thus subordinated the people to the junta, suggesting the military’s suitability to embody the king’s celestial legacy in a period of transition.

in Political theologies and development in Asia
Materialising the political in Thailand
Eli Elinoff

At the basis of Thailand’s contemporary cycle of political volatility are deep questions about the legitimacy of the nation in its current and its future form. This conjuncture raises the broader question: What binds the political in the first place? This chapter considers how the Thai case and its distinct answers to these questions reveals both Thailand’s contested theo-politics and how understanding such politics requires engagements with the materials that hold the political together. By analysing the materiality of two recent protests –one involving blood and one involving cement – this chapter demonstrates how these materials reveal distinct lines of thinking surrounding the forces that bind citizens to the political and mobilise them as distinct sorts of political subjects working towards making differently organised political worlds. By thinking the political through the forces and materials that bind it together, this chapter demonstrates how distinct uses of the materiality reveal how the forces that once held the nation together are quickly becoming the lines upon which it might come apart.

in Political theologies and development in Asia
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Genealogies of Shiʿa humanitarianism in Pakistan, England, and Iraq
Till Mostowlansky

Based on ethnographic fieldwork among charitable trusts in Pakistan and England, this chapter explores the complex genealogies of contemporary Twelver Shia humanitarianism. Moving away from the notion of linear genealogical connections between specific theologies and contemporary humanitarian practices, this chapter argues that the political theology underlying contemporary Shia humanitarianism is informed by the entanglement of diverse genealogical strands. These include reformulations of the ‘Muslim liberal’, the concept of ‘meritocracy’ deriving from managerial discourse, and memorialisations of the seventh-century Battle of Karbala as an inherently political-theological event. In sum, this chapter purports that – to do justice to the complexity of Shia humanitarianism – it is useful to move away from the notion that an a priori theological foundation underlies contemporary humanitarian work, and instead to think through multipolar and multidirectional interactions.

in Political theologies and development in Asia
Transcendence, sacrifice, and aspiration

This innovative and timely reassessment of political theology opens new lines of critical investigation into the intersections of religion and politics in contemporary Asia. Political Theologies and Development in Asia pioneers the theo-political analysis of Asian politics and in so doing moves beyond a focus on the (Post-)Christian West that has to date dominated scholarly discussions on this theme. It also locates ‘development’ as a vital focus for critical investigations into Asian political theologies. The volume includes contributions by leading anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists. Each chapter brings new theoretical approaches into conversation with detailed empirical case studies grounded in modern Asia. Not only does the volume illustrate the value and import of this approach to a diverse set of contemporary Asian societies and religions, but it also provides a forceful argument for why political theology itself requires this broader horizon to remain relevant and critical. The focus on ‘development’ – conceptualised broadly here as a set of modern transnational networks of ideas and practices of improvement that connect geographically disparate locations¬¬ – enables a fresh and critical analysis of the ways in which political theology is imagined, materialised, and contested both within and beyond particular nation-states. Investigating the sacred dimensions of power through concepts of transcendence, sacrifice, and victimhood, and aspiration and salvation, the chapters in this collection demonstrate how European and Asian modernities are bound together through genealogical, institutional, and theo-political entanglements, as well as a long history of global interactions.

Qur’anic objects and their publics in Indonesia
Kenneth M. George

This chapter conjures an object-oriented political theology that would declare ‘no politics without things,’ and equally, ‘no ethics without things’. The essay explores how religious objects summon and animate national and transnational publics for whom such objects are matters of common concern, taking as its examples two Qur’anic objects that sparked debate among Muslims in Indonesia during the mid-1990s. A cultural politics of belonging and ethical conduct surrounded each object, pivoting especially on the veneration and custodial care Muslims are expected to show toward the Qur’an and its language. The chapter thus suggests ways in which materiality has to be reckoned into the exercise of statecraft, development, conscience, accountability, and address, and so into our ethico-political footing for dwelling in the world together.

in Political theologies and development in Asia
The political theology of development in Asia
Giuseppe Bolotta, Philip Fountain, and R. Michael Feener

This chapter sets out the theoretical framework of this volume. Recent scholarship on political theology has amply illustrated the critical potentialities of examining the ‘religious’ remainder in even the most purportedly ‘secular’ of modern institutions. However, scholarship on political theology to date has primarily involved tracing the presence of Christian theologies within modern Western institutions. By shifting the focus to Asia, this chapter seeks a broader reconceptualisation of the field of political theology, and demonstrates that the political theology of development in Asia makes a vital contribution to our understanding of configurations and genealogies of the political. The focus on development – as a set of transnational networks that connect Western and Asian modernities in complex political and religious entanglements – enables fresh critical analysis of the ways in which the theo-political is imagined, materialised, and contested in and beyond the state. This chapter advances notions of transcendence, sacrifice and victimhood, and aspiration and salvation as particularly valuable analytic categories for understanding how development is lived and experienced within diverse Asian contexts today.

in Political theologies and development in Asia
Sunila S. Kale and Christian Lee Novetzke

Yoga has always been political, from the ancient past to the present day. In the twentieth century, India’s best-known political figure, Mohandas K. Gandhi, employed yoga in his public politics. For Gandhi, yoga was a way to express his idea that political action always emerged from resolving the tension between the individual and the collective. This chapter considers the political yoga advanced by Gandhi that still resonates in the present filtered through the lens of a modern yogic ethic of development. In doing this, it also offers critical reflections on the political theology of yoga that might be apparent not only in the broadly construed realm of development ideologies, but also in other ideological, intellectual, and political contexts – both in India and abroad.

in Political theologies and development in Asia
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Alison I. Beach, Shannon M.T. Li, and Samuel S. Sutherland

An ad hoc extension, comprising sporadic annual entries, begins with the author’s first-hand experience of being cured from a spiritual malady by a drink from a chalice holding the tooth of the monastery’s founder. The author also discusses the monastery’s involvement in and experience of larger events in the mid-twelfth century, including the Second Lateran Council, the Second Crusade (and St. Bernard’s journey through Germany), and an extended period of famine and scarcity that compelled the monks to sell many prized works of art and other goods. A brief hagiography on St. Ratpero, whose oratory was located on land owned by Petershausen, is included. Several chapters that describe the death of religious women and men and other later entries offer a rare acknowledgement in the CP of religious women and men of various sorts at Petershausen, including those the chronicler identifies as hermits and inclusi. This section closes with a dramatic description of the fire that destroyed the monastery in 1159. In offering an eyewitness account of the extent of the devastation and the efforts of the monks to rebuild, the chronicler spins a narrative of trauma that lays the blame with the monks for their many moral failings.

in Monastic experience in twelfth-century Germany
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Alison I. Beach, Shannon M.T. Li, and Samuel S. Sutherland

A fifth book, partly the work of a continuator, begins with the continued efforts of the monks to rebuild after the fire. After a brief description of Frederick Barbarossa and the Alexandrian Schism, most of the rest of the book focuses on Abbot Conrad (r. 1127–1164) and his exploits, including some pointed critiques of his many missteps.

in Monastic experience in twelfth-century Germany
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Alison I. Beach, Shannon M.T. Li, and Samuel S. Sutherland

Book Four continues the history of the monastery from the death of Theodoric to the author’s own time with an eclectic collection of colorful stories continuing many of themes introduced in Books Two and Three – conflicts with bishops and lay patrons, internal politics, relations with daughter houses, and various miracles. Twice the bishop-proprietor Ulrich I of Constance attempts to intervene in the election or abdication of an abbot, spurring the monastery to assert its libertas in active resistance. Hints of profound troubles in the wake of reform are introduced, including violence in the abbey, economic mismanagement, and failed attempts to found and reform other houses. The monastery is miraculously spared from fire on multiple occasions.

in Monastic experience in twelfth-century Germany