Late for Buddha: the construction of Dara’ang (Silver Palaung) religious and ethnic identity

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Buddhism, Southeast Asia, Thailand, Dara’ang, Palaung

This dissertation examines how Theravāda Buddhism affects the construction of cultural identity amongst the Dara’ang, a highland ethnic minority group who practice a form of Buddhism associated with the old Tai Yuan kingdom of Lan Na. This particular form of Buddhism has waned in northern Thailand in response to the extension of Siamese or Central Thai hegemony, yet movements led by charismatic khruba monks attempt to revitalize these practices amongst the northern population, including the Dara’ang. This study analyzes how Dara’ang men and women draw upon their religious practices and beliefs, as well as the religious discourse of khruba monks, to construct a distinct Dara’ang identity, one that emphasizes a cultural affinity with the Tai people, while simultaneously resisting cultural assimilation and challenging the dominant representation of the group as an alien other within 'Thai'-land.

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Senior supervisor: 
Michael Howard
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.