RELG 3120                       BUDDHISM @ WAR            

FINAL Essay Paper Topics

Your Final Paper for this course should respond to one of the following. You should also design it to represent an in-depth engagement with particular issues raised in this course as reflected in these topics, as well as indicating you are conversant with the course’s overall subject-matter. The requirements are as follows:

            A final term Paper, typed, double-spaced and 2000-3000 words [= c.7 to 10 pages] plus Bibliography, with ALL uses of outside sources clearly referenced, giving page numbers immediately after each use. It is due NO LATER THAN Monday October 19th, MMXX.

Should you wish to do your own topic, you MUST discuss it with me in advance (I’m also very happy to discuss any of the topics below with you). In addition, you should consider the topics given here carefully, as a guide to the kinds of things I am looking for from our course.

            In particular, you should seek to relate specific examples, and the details thereof, to general principles that we have taken up in the course of the course. Your paper may focus on specific examples of Buddhism in conflicts, or it may evaluate more general principles, but in either case you should relate principles to examples and vice versa. Choose economical examples (compact, detailed, digestible) to address the general points you seek to make.

            Assuming you choose one of the following topics, clearly indicate on your title page which topic you’re responding to, and give your paper an informative title that indicates how you are refining the topic to your specific subject or interests. Similarly, if you do your own topic, give it an interesting title that conveys the theme(s) of your paper.

DO NOT FAIL to include a proper full bibliography of all works read or viewed — anything that has informed you on your chosen topic.

DO NOT FAIL to CHECK OVER your paper BEFORE you email it to me – then you’ll see if you have indeed forgotten the Biblio!

Suggested Topics:   Choose 1 —& state which Topic you have chosen

1. Apply some aspects of my interpretations of Religion in Political Conflict to one of the 3 cases we have studied in detail: the Sri Lankan civil war; Zen and the rise of Japanese militarism; or the Tibetan struggle with the People’s Republic of China. You may either indicate how you see my analysis illuminating the events and motivations involved; or ways in which my analysis is wanting, or needs refinement or modification in order better to analyze the situation as you perceive it.

2. Apply Patrick Grant’s concept of ‘retrogressive inversion’ to a different example of Buddhism at war or in political conflict from the one he studies (Sri Lanka), in order to analyze the rationales and discourse involved in your example conflict.

3. Compare and contrast Zen and the rise of Japanese militarism and the Tibetan struggle with the People’s Republic of China in terms of the role of the Buddhist religion in those conflicts, especially how Buddhists respond to their perceived adversaries in each case.

4. Choose a different conflict that has included Buddhists in the struggle (e.g. recent events in Burma, or Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia) and describe the similarities and differences you see between your case study and at least one of those we’ve studied in class as to how the Buddhist religion played a role in those conflicts. You will need first to do some detailed research into this example, and include some history and characterization of the conflict in your essay.

5. Let us assume international politics from the 19th-century on involves applying methods to express power as a means to gain advantages for one’s own nation state relative to others. By examining one episode or situation in any of the three cases studied in detail in this class, show how the religion of Buddhism affected such an expression of power – either by contributing to it, providing the means, manipulating a population to participate, or alternatively, by discouraging or diverting such power-motivated national energies away from conflict or power politics. Yet another option could be that you see a way in which Buddhists could have played a constructive role, but for some reason (related to their religion, at least in part) they crucially failed to. Analyze your chosen instance in terms of the political forces at work, including the Buddhist religion. Be careful to write an introduction that clearly stipulates which of these various options you are choosing to think through, and how your chosen instance sets up your analysis of Buddhism in relation to political power.

6. In my ms-book Chapter 3, pages 3f (in Files on Canvas), I propose four ‘degrees of recognizability’ by which religions may be perceived to influence or play a role in cultures and societies. Building on my analysis and examples there, closely analyze one of the 3 case studies from this course (or some aspect of them) to show how the Buddhist religion can be seen playing roles that have one (or more) of these ‘degrees of recognizability,’ so as to help explain that culture, and by extension its conflicted political situation, in light of this religious analysis.

7. In light of my analysis of religion in political conflict, do you now consider that certain defining characteristics of Buddhism (e.g. the relationship between the religious professionals and common people, whether believers or not; Buddhism’s particular emphasis on nonviolent ideals; Buddhism’s distinctive metaphysics such as impermanence/anatta/sunyata-emptiness) cause it to create different dynamics in conflict situations from other religions – or not? Explain your answer in detail.

8. Is there any one aspect of my analysis of Religion in Political Conflict that our examination of Buddhism at War has convinced you needs to be revised or rescinded? Explain in detail, with specific reference to cases we studied in this course.

Again – DO NOT FAIL to include a proper full bibliography of all works read or viewed — anything that has informed you on your chosen topic.

DO NOT FAIL to CHECK your Paper!

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