Making Fields Of Merit: Buddhist Female Ascetics and Gendered Orders in Thailand

Paperback | March 12, 2008

byMonica 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).

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.

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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 reli...

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.

other books by Monica Lindberg Falk

Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 9 × 6.04 × 0.7 inPublished:March 12, 2008Publisher:University Of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:029598726X

ISBN - 13:9780295987262

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Table of Contents

PrefaceAcknowledgments1. Introduction. Buddhist female ascetics in Thai society2. Gender orders and gendering renunciation - past and present3. Themes of going forth4. Transcending the lay realm5. Mai chii communities and the making of a mai chii6. Gender and the fields of merit7. A religious field in transition8. Mai chiis' quest for education9. Struggles for legal recognition10. Summary and conclusionsGlossaryBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

Making Fields of Merit is a fascinating study of the Thai mae chiis and will undoubtedly become required reading for anyone interested in Thai Buddhism or female Buddhist asceticism.

- Journal of Buddhist Ethics