Book on Sri Lankan Buddhism 'poised to spark debate'

November 08, 2002

Blacksburg, Va., Nov. 7, 2002 -- Ananda Abeysekara's book Colors of the Robe "sheds new light on the Sri Lankan Buddhist universe of ethics and politics and, more important, suggests innovative directions for the global study of religion, identity, culture, politics, and violence," according to its publisher, the University of South Carolina Press.

The book is "poised to spark debate among scholars of religious studies and other disciplines," the press wrote. Abeysekara is an assistant professor of religious studies in the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at Virginia Tech.

Colors of the Robe is "a subtle and critical inquiry into the agonistic space of discourse about Buddhism and politics in Sri Lanka," according to David Scott of Columbia University. "A fascinating work of multi-registered sophistication, it challenges the ready-to-hand assumptions that guide much of the contemporary study of religion, culture, and violence in the postcolonial world. Colors of the Robe unsettles and provokes, and will help to alter the terms of the historical study of postcolonial difference."

Charles Hallisey of the University of Wisconsin--Madison wrote that the book is "an important addition to scholarship on modern Sri Lankan Buddhism, but Ananda Abeyesekara's greatest contribution is theoretical, both for the study of cultural life in general and the study of religion in particular."

According to the publisher, "In a volume that surpasses other studies in tracking, identifying, and locating Sri Lankan Buddhism in its sectarian, ethnic, cultural, social, and political constructions, Ananda Abeyekara lays down a challenge to postcolonial and postmodern theory. He argues that although criticisms have undermined the orientalist constructions of culture, they cannot help us understand, let alone theorize, the emergence of contemporary authoritative discourses that define distinctions involving religion and violence, identity and difference. Supplanting that aim, Abeysekara illuminates the shifting configurations that characterize the relations connected with postcolonial religious identity and culture."
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PR CONTACT: Sally Harris 540-231-6759 slharris@vt.edu

Virginia Tech

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