Monday, May 22, 2017

Schonthal on Constitutionalism and Religion in Sri Lanka

Benjamin Schonthal, University of Otago, published Buddhism, Politics and the Limits of Law: The Pyrrhic Constitutionalism of Sri Lanka with Cambridge University Press in 2016. The book takes a historical approach in Part I, especially. From the publisher:
Buddhism, Politics and the Limits of LawIt is widely assumed that a well-designed and well-implemented constitution can help ensure religious harmony in modern states. Yet how correct is this assumption? Drawing on groundbreaking research from Sri Lanka, this book argues persuasively for another possibility: when it comes to religion, relying on constitutional law may not be helpful, but harmful; constitutional practice may give way to pyrrhic constitutionalism. Written in a lucid and direct style, and aimed at both specialists and non-specialists, Buddhism, Politics and the Limits of Law explains why constitutional law has deepened, rather than diminished, conflicts over religion in Sri Lanka. Examining the roles of Buddhist monks, civil society groups, political coalitions and more, the book provides the first extended study of the legal regulation of religion in Sri Lanka as well as the first book-length analysis of the intersections of Buddhism and contemporary constitutional law.
The book provides the first detailed history of the legal regulation of religion in late and postcolonial Sri Lanka, which will be of interest to scholars of religious and legal history in South Asia. It draws upon previously unexamined sources and original ethnography in Sinhala, Tamil and English, offering new data and insights into Sri Lanka's political, legal and religious history.
A review:

"There is nothing the study of law and religion needs more than deeply informed political and religious histories of postcolonial states and societies. This is exactly what this book offers. In an exhaustively researched legal ethnography of the treatment of religion in Sri Lankan constitutionalism, Benjamin Schonthal explores how Sri Lankans have wrestled with the tensions generated by a legal order that guarantees religious rights while also granting to the majority religion of Buddhism its 'rightful place'. Is it possible for the state to protect a tradition without interfering in it? Who speaks for Buddhism in these debates? This sobering story of the limits of law is a must-read for scholars of religion and politics, Buddhist studies, and comparative constitutional law." -Elizabeth Shakman Hurd

TOC after the break.


1. Introduction: religion, law and the pyrrhic constitutionalism of Sri Lanka

Part I. The Past Lives of the Buddhism Chapter:
2. Managing religion at the end of empire
3. Contesting constitutions in the 1950s and 1960s
4. Multivalent solutions: drafting the Buddhism chapter

Part II. From Creation to Implementation:
5. Legal battles for Buddhism
6. Battles within Buddhism
7. Constitutional conversions

8. Conclusion: the costs of constitutional law

Further information is available here.