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Charney, Michael W. (2001) Islamization and Buddhicization in Precolonial and Colonial Bengal and Southeast Asia. In: Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, 22-25 March 2001, Chicago. (Unpublished)

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Recent work on Islamization in Bengal (Eaton 1993) and Buddhicization in Burma (Charney 1999) suggests that these seemingly very different developments have much in common. By looking comparatively at these developments during two phases of changing social relations, this paper seeks to formulate a model for understanding the formation, integration, and maintenance of cultural systems. In the first phase examined, early modern reciprocal social relationships and elite accumulation of agricultural surplus encouraged a system of personal patronage (by ruling elites for themselves and their clients) of saints and arhants and bodies of religious textual specialists. Extraordinary forms of personal piety (e.g., aranya-vasi practices) and religious-language textual orthodoxy according to classical textual norms conferred prestige, and encouraged the acquisition of high-status religious symbols, texts, and titles. In the second phase (the early colonial period), however, popular Muslim and Buddhist communal identities developed in the context of rural dislocation and the commercialization of rural social relations. This formation was fed by rural religious “specialists,” increased rural literacy in vernacular languages as a result of both religious and secular indigenous schools (independent of the colonial regime), the production and spread of stories reinforcing a Muslim or Theravada Buddhist world-view, reduced emphasis on textual orthodoxy, religious patronage by group conscription rather than by individuals, and the increasing inclusion in traditional agricultural festivals of Buddhist and Muslim symbols, rites, and religious specialists. Thus, parallel changes in the production and transmission of transregional religious cultures accompanied parallel social, economic, and political developments.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Items (Paper)
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies > Department of History
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of History
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2009 10:25

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