Special Issue on Religion in Myanmar

The Review of Faith and International Affairs will soon publish a special issue on religion in Myanmar. The volume includes contributions on a range of topics by several Burma Studies scholars.

My own contribution is on the ‘The Construction of Religion by Law in Myanmar‘. The abstract is as follows:

Mosque in Moulemein, July 2015.

This article provides an overview of the broader shifts in state-religion relations in terms of constitutional and legislative changes in Myanmar since independence. This article examines the relation between religion and law in Myanmar more broadly, and questions how law has been used by the state to construct the idea of religion and ‘acceptable’ religious practise. It seeks to demonstrate that law has influenced the way religion is practised and understood in Myanmar, shaping both relations between religious communities and the state, and relations between Buddhist and non-Buddhist communities. It highlights three areas where law has been used to regulate and limit religious life and practise in Myanmar since independence. The first aspect is personal law and inter-religious relations as regulated by statute and case law. The second aspect is constitutional law and the role of religion in public life. The third aspect is the control of the Sangha through the legal regulation of disputes and education, and the application of criminal law. The way in which the state has engaged with each of these issues has changed over time and been tightened by successive socialist and military regimes. This has led to an instrumental relationship between law and religion in contemporary Myanmar. I demonstrate that the emphasis on the use of law as a control on religious affairs promotes a religion of legality, while law continually seeks to define the parameters and legality of religion in Myanmar.