Organized Panel Session
How have Buddhist conceptions of history and history-making practices, which might seem like intellectual activities, shaped the lived interactions between Buddhists and others? The panel examines post-colonial constructions of history and imaginaries of the trajectories of entwined Buddhist groups in Southeast Asia, from Burma to Cambodia and the Mekong delta in Vietnam. Drawing on mid-20th century history writing practices in Burma, Turner considers how Buddhist indigenous history imagined Burmese Buddhism under threat, a historical imaginary that continues to operate in today’s debates over the fate of Myanmar’s Rohingya. Thun’s paper traces the globally ambitious writings of 1950s Khmer Buddhist intellectuals whose work situated Cambodia as the descendent of Indian Buddhism and hub of Buddhist missionary efforts in the region. McHale examines the suppressed history (in light of Cambodian-Vietnamese animosities) of Cambodian Buddhist influences on Vietnamese Buddhists in the delta region of Vietnam. Sasagawa shows how the 1950s interactions and expectations between Cambodian and Japanese Buddhists was shaped by a history of Japanese Buddhist imaginings of Cambodian Buddhists as more mystical than modern. Drawing from their own work on Buddhist imaginaries during this period, Hansen and Davis will offer comments and moderate a discussion about the impacts of history-making processes. Taken as a whole, the panel aims to show how Buddhists constructed histories of themselves and others in the crucial mid-century decolonizing period, what was at stake in these histories and how these imaginaries of history shaped post-colonial interactions, conflicts and assumptions about what Southeast Asian Buddhists and Buddhism could achieve.