Bookshelf Spotlight: Religions in SEA

Featured Books

* How to Behave: Buddhism and Modernity in Colonial Cambodia, 1860-1930
* Burmese Buddhasahassanamavali
* From Cosmogony to Exorcism in a Javanese Genesis: The Spilt Seed
* Shadows of the Prophet: Martial Arts and Sufi Mysticism
* Unconventional Sisterhood: Feminist Catholic Nuns in the Philippines (Southeast Asia: Politics, Meaning, and Memory)
* A New God in the Diaspora?: Muneeswaran Worship in Contemporary Singapore

How to Behave: Buddhism and Modernity in Colonial Cambodia, 1860-1930

by Anne Ruth Hansen
University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2007

This ambitious cross-disciplinary study of Buddhist modernism in colonial Cambodia breaks new ground in understanding the history and development of religion and colonialism in Southeast Asia.

UH Press | Goodreads | Amazon | Google Books

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Burmese Buddhasahassanamavali

by S.N. Goenka
Vipassana Meditation Institute, 1998

Buddha Sahassanamavali means ’1000 names of the Buddha’. A selected collection of 208 Pāli couplets written by Goenkaji expounding the virtues and qualities of the Buddha. The book is rich in Pāli vocabulary, and can be a great aid to learning the Pāli language also. In addition to this Myanmar-script version, the book is available in the following other scripts (Pāli language, different scripts): Devanagari, Roman, Thai, Sri Lankan, Cambodian, Mongolian.

Goodreads | Pariyatti Books

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From Cosmogony to Exorcism in a Javanese Genesis: The Spilt Seed

By Stephen C. Headley
Oxford University Press, 2001

In 1925, the influential Dutch anthropologist W. H. Rassers questioned the relationship of myth to ritual, taking as his case study the Javanese myth of the birth of the man-eating demon Kala. This myth, and its re-enactment, shed light on the social morphology and became immediately the subject of debate among students of Javanese culture. In this enticing work, Stephen C. Headley translates and studies ritual and myth in their variant forms, expanding upon Rassers’ general proposition that the movement from cosmogony to exorcism discovers fundamental social forms that circulate values in Javanese society.

Goodreads | Amazon | Google Books

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Shadows of the Prophet: Martial Arts and Sufi Mysticism

By D.S. Farrer
Springer, 2009

This is the first in-depth study of the Malay martial art, silat, and the first ethnographic account of the Haqqani Islamic Sufi Order. Drawing on 12 years of research and practice in Malaysia, Singapore, and England, social anthropologist and martial arts expert D.S. Farrer considers Malay silat through the transnational Sufi silat group called Seni Silat Haqq, an off-shoot of the Haqqani-Naqshbandi Sufi Order.

This account combines theories from the anthropology of art, embodiment, enchantment, and performance to show how war magic and warrior religion amalgamate in traditional Malay martial arts, where practitioners distance themselves from “becoming animal” or going into trance, preferring a practice of spontaneous bodily movement by summoning the power of Allah. Silat and Sufism are revealed through the social dramas of 40-day boot-camps where Malay and European practitioners endeavor to become shadows of the Prophet, only to have their faith tested through a ritual ordeal of boiling oil. The unseen realm and magical embodiment is further approached through an account of Malay deathscapes where moving through the patterns of silat summons the spirits of ancestral heroes.

Those interested in Malaysia, Sufism, transnational Islam, and the study of religion, conversion, magic, sorcery, theatre and martial arts will find this book indispensable.

Goodreads | Amazon | Google Books

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Unconventional Sisterhood: Feminist Catholic Nuns in the Philippines (Southeast Asia: Politics, Meaning, and Memory)

By Heather Lynn Claussen
University of Michigan Press, 2001

Unconventional Sisterhood is an ethnographic exploration of the ways in which Filipina Missionary Benedictine Sisters are renegotiating traditional understandings of gender, religious responsibility, and national identity in the context of a rapidly globalizing nation. Unlike the popular stereotypes of staid sisters cloaked in rigid religious dogmatism, they are doing so by telling jokes, engaging in eclectic religious rituals, maintaining connections with a local nationalist cult, and committing themselves to a radical and feminist politics.

This work represents an important addition to scholarship on Philippine feminism. It is one of few ethnographies that focuses on female monasticism–of particular cultural importance in the Christian Philippines, where nuns enjoy relatively high social status and freedom from many of the traditional constraints delineating Filipina lives. It is noteworthy as well for its focus on metropolitan Manila–a socially complex, dynamic, diverse, and understudied environment.

Goodreads | Amazon | Google Books | Intersections Review

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A New God in the Diaspora?: Muneeswaran Worship in Contemporary Singapore

By Vineeta Sinha
Singapore University Press, 2006

A New God examines the worship of a Hindu deity known as Muneeswaran in contemporary Singapore. The strong presence and veneration of this male deity on the island, and the innovative styles of religiosity now associated with him, justify calling Muneeswaran a ‘new’ god in the Indian diaspora. Vineeta Sinha documents a neglected aspect of local Hinduism and the ritual domain surrounding guardian deities (kaval deivam) such as Muneeswaran. She raises a broader question: why has this deity, brought from Tamilnadu to Malaya more than 170 years ago, such a strong appeal for young Singaporean Hindus three and four generations removed from their Indian origins. Her exploration of these issues provides an ethnographic documentation of urban-based Hindu religiosity in contemporary Singapore, and makes an important contribution to the global study of religion in the diasporas.

Goodreads | Amazon | National University of Singapore

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