Buddhism, Copying, and the Art of the Imagination in Thailand

Jim Taylor


This article theorizes new urban religio-scapes in metropolitan Bangkok, a city space of contradictory modernities. Here, I look at two contrasting Buddhist monastic spaces of sanctity from periods of fieldwork between 1998 and 2002. Firstly, as found in the modern semblance of order and discipline at the radically neo-conservative Dhammakaya Movement (lit. “Body of Dhamma”). Secondly, the chaotic, disordered flamboyant and kitsch space of the Sanam Chan Monastery on the outskirts of the ever-expanding Thai post-metropolis, which has similarities with the consumerist contemporary “Buddhist” feature art of the arcades and shopping centres. I argue that Wat (Monastery) Sanam Chan is a postmodern representation of sanctity; it is a response to modernity, while Dhammakaya, aside from its immense spectacle, reflects more the essentialist conditions inherent in modernity. Nevertheless, it is clear that both spaces of sanctity challenge the established religious hierarchy, its perceived orthodoxy, legitimation and the ethical bases of civic religion in Thailand.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Jim Taylor

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