Pursuing Morality: Buddhism and Everyday Ethics in Southeastern Myanmar
Pursuing Morality is an in-depth and fascinating study of ordinary life in Myanmar’s southeast through a unique ethnographic focus on Buddhist Plong (Pwo) Karen. Based on extensive in-depth fieldwork in the small city of Hpa-an, the capital of Karen State, Chambers shines new light on Plong Buddhists' lives and the multiple ways they broker, traverse, enact, cultivate, defend and pursue moral lives.
This is the first ethnographic study of Myanmar to add to a growing body of anthropological scholarship that is referred to as the “moral turn”. Each chapter examines the lives of Plong Buddhists from different vantage points, calling into question many assumptions about Southeast Asian values and the nature of Buddhist Theravāda practice. Critiquing the notion that moral coherence is necessary for ethical selfhood, Chambers demonstrates how the pursuit of morality is varied, performative and embedded in an affective notion of the self as a moral agent, in a relationship with wider structural political forces. This vivid account of everyday life will engage readers interested in Myanmar, Buddhism, and moral anthropology, offering a deeply human portrait about an area of the world that remains largely defined by conflict and now military dictatorship.
Justine Chambers is a socio-cultural anthropologist whose research focuses on ethnonational conflict, morality, violence and everyday life in southeast Myanmar.
Publication Year: 2024
304pp / 229 x 152mm
2 b/w maps, 13 b/w images
Asian Studies Association of Australia: Southeast Asian Publications Series