Benjamin Schonthal

“Regulating Religion: Buddhism, Pluralism, and the State in Contemporary Sri Lanka”

Having recently come back from two years researching and writing in Sri Lanka and New Zealand, I’m very excited to return to the Divinity School as a Martin Marty Junior Fellow. Over the next year, I hope to complete two chapters of my dissertation, a project that looks at the relationship between religion and law in contemporary Sri Lanka. One chapter will review the history of religious policies on the island since independence; the other will look at the development of the Holidays Act, a statute that specifies which religious holidays are to be recognized as public holidays, requiring the closures of government offices, businesses and schools. In general, I’m interested in how religion has been conceived and shaped through legal practice and how the process of drafting, amending and repealing laws that regulate religion involve distinct assumptions about what, where and when is “religious." The Marty Center will be a wonderful place to do this work both because it gives a me a chance to meet regularly with a diverse group of Ph.D.-writers to present, critique and discuss each other’s dissertation work and because it offers an opportunity to think about my work in the context of larger issues concerning the study of religion and the general public. I’m particularly looking forward to the attention given to examining the processes and goals teaching, and the opportunity to get critical feedback on teaching methods by a teaching mentor.

PhD 2012: History of Religions