The Buddhist Nuns and Dialogue in Wartime Myanmar: Understanding the ‘Banality of Othering’
AbstractThis paper contends that dialogue must be understood dispassionately with the aim to appreciate what David Bohm (2013) called ‘incoherence’, and the need to embrace multiplicity in narratives, even if that implies incongruence in the understanding of dialogue. Using ethnographic methods and findings, I situate the politics of self and the other, and argue that determining the other and acknowledging the ‘banality of othering’ need to be examined in discussions around dialogue. I present a background of the interfaith tensions between the Buddhists and the Muslim-Other in Myanmar and by means of ethnographic anecdotes unpack the underplayed importance of determining the other within one’s own faith tradition and emphasise the needs and possibilities of engaging with them. Female religious leaders are often the innate other in many religious traditions, and their stories, experiences, and recommendations are disproportionately discounted, and that necessitates redressing. In a first, this study reports the role of Buddhist nuns, or the lack of it, in transitional Myanmar in the belief, practice, and scholarship of dialogue, and emphasises the need for their meaningful involvement.