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The Department of Religion, The Fund for the Study of World Religions, 
Center for Freedom and Western Civilization,
 Asian Studies, and CORE Communities

Lunch provided, please RSVP

Historians of law and religion often underscore the defining influence of colonial officials in shaping, even inventing, regimes of ‘Hindu law’ and ‘Muslim law’ in Asia. Can the same be said about Buddhist law? In this talk, I draw on a collection of Sinhala and Pāli monastic legal texts from nineteenth-century Ceylon/Sri Lanka to offer another perspective. I hope to explain why developments in Buddhist legal practice were not so much products of European adulteration as the outcomes of deliberate and proactive innovation by Buddhist monastic lawmakers as well as the outgrowths of a more general atmosphere of 'inter-legality.'  

Benjamin Schonthal is Professor of Buddhist Studies and Head of the Religion Programme at the University of Otago in Aotearoa/New Zealand, where he also co-directs the Otago Centre for Law and Society. Ben received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and has held visiting positions at Northwestern University, the Institute for Advanced Studies (Bielefeld) and the Law School at the University of Chicago. Ben's research examines the intersections of religion, law and politics in South and Southeast Asia. He is the author of Buddhism, Politics and the Limits of Law (CUP, 2016) and co-editor of Buddhism and Comparative Constitutional Law (CUP, 2023, with Tom Ginsburg). His current book project, Law's Karma, supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand, examines the institutions, politics and practices of Buddhist law in contemporary Southern Asia.

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