Making Fields of Merit: Buddhist Female Ascetics and Gendered Orders in Thailand


Monica Lindberg Falk

Religion plays a central role in Thai society with Buddhism intertwined in the daily lives of the people. Religion also plays an
important role in establishing gender boundaries. The growth in
recent decades of self-governing nunneries and the increasing
interest of Thai women in a Buddhist monastic life are notable
changes in the religion–gender dynamic. This anthropological study addresses religion and gender relations, analysing this through the lens of the lives, actions and role in Thai society of an order of Buddhist nuns (mae chii). t presents an unique ethnography of these Thai Buddhist nuns, examines what it implies to be a female ascetic in contemporary Thailand and analyses how the ordained state for women fits into the wider gender patterns found in Thai society. The study also deals with the nuns’ agency in creating religious space and authority for women. In addition, it raises questions about how
the position of Thai Buddhist nuns outside the Buddhist sangha
affects their religious legitimacy and describes recent moves to
restore a Theravada order of female monks.

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Making Fields of Merit: Buddhist Female Ascetics and Gendered Orders in Thailand

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