John Holt: Narratives of Siege: Understanding Buddhist/Muslim Conflicts in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand

January 24, 2020

John Holt will give a public lecture on February 17, 4:30pm, Swift Common Room entitled “Narratives of Siege: Understanding Buddhist/Muslim Conflicts in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.”

Why have Buddhist and Muslim communities in these three countries, after sharing centuries of largely amicable relations, found themselves recently enmeshed in conditions of inter-communal tension, tensions that have sporadically erupted into armed conflict, in some cases including large-scale state-supported violence against minority Muslim communities? There many socio-economic, political and religious factors that have exacerbated inter-communal relations in the recent past. Notwithstanding a consideration of these various compelling factors, how each of the six respective communities in these three countries understands their contemporary predicaments through narratives of siege is the focus of this lecture. 

John Clifford Holt is currently Visiting Professor of Theravada Buddhism at the Divinity School. He is the author of many books, including Discipline: the Canonical Buddhism of the Vinayapitaka (Motilal Banarsidass, 1981), Buddha in the Crown: Avalokitesvara in the Buddhist Traditions of Sri Lanka (Oxford University Press, 1991), for which he was awarded an American Academy Book Award for Excellence, The Religious World of Kirti Sri: Buddhist Art and Politics in Late Medieval Sri Lanka (Oxford University Press, 1996), The Buddhist Visnu (Columbia University Press, 2004), Spirits of the Place: Buddhism and Lao Religious Culture (University of Hawaii Press, 2009), Theravada Traditions: Buddhist Ritual Cultures in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka (University of Hawaii Press, 2017), and Myanmar’s Buddhist-Muslim Crisis: Rohingya, Arakanese, and Burmese Narratives of Siege and Fear (University of Hawaii Press, 2019). Included among the seven books he has also edited are The Sri Lanka Reader: History, Politics and Culture (Duke University Press, 2011) and Buddhist Extremists and Muslim Minorities: Religious Conflict in Contemporary Sri Lanka (Oxford University Press, 2016). He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Peradeniya in 2002, and selected as University of Chicago Divinity School Alumnus of the Year in 2007. He has also served on the faculties of Bowdoin College, the University of Peradeniya (Sri Lanka), The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the University of Calgary (Canada), and the University of California at Berkeley.