Special Seminar by Prof. Katherine A. Bowie on June 27
2016/06/27 @ 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
You are cordially invited to a special seminar given by Professor Katherine Bowie.
She will be giving a seminar on her upcoming book
Beggars and Buddhas: The Politics of Humor in the Vessantara Jataka in
Thailand. You are all welcome to join us !
Date and Time: June 27th (Mon.), 2016, 16:00 – 18:00
Place: Tonan Tei on the second floor of Inamori Memorial Building,
CSEAS, Kyoto University
Title: “Folktales and the Politics of Humor: The Case of the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand”
In the Vessantara Jataka, the most famous story about the Buddha’s previous lives, the Buddha in his incarnation as Prince Vessantara perfects the virtue of generosity. Exploring the politics of humor, this talk will highlight significant differences in the interpretations and performances of this story across three regions of Thailand.
The upcoming book:
Of Beggars and Buddhas: The Politics of Humor in the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand. University of Wisconsin Press. February 2017.
An exploration of the subversive politics of humor in the most important story in Theravada Buddhism
The 547 Buddhist jatakas, or verse parables, recount the Buddha’s lives in previous incarnations. In his penultimate and most famous incarnation, he appears as the Prince Vessantara, perfecting the virtue of generosity by giving away all his possessions, his wife, and his children to the beggar Jujaka. Taking an anthropological approach to this two-thousand-year-old morality tale, Katherine A. Bowie highlights significant local variations in its interpretations and public performances across three regions of Thailand over 150 years.
The Vessantara Jataka has served both monastic and royal interests, encouraging parents to give their sons to religious orders and intimating that kings are future Buddhas. But, as Bowie shows, characterizations of the beggar Jujaka in various regions and eras have also brought ribald humor and sly antiroyalist themes to the story.
Historically, these subversive performances appealed to popular audiences even as they worried the conservative Bangkok court. The monarchy sporadically sought to suppress the comedic recitations. As
Thailand has changed from a feudal to a capitalist society, this famous story about giving away possessions is paradoxically being employed to promote tourism and wealth.
Katherine Bowie is Professor of Anthropology and former Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received a BA with Distinction from Stanford
University and her MA and PhD from the University of Chicago. She has conducted extended fieldwork in Thailand, with primary interests in political anthropology, historical anthropology, gender and Theravada
Buddhism. She has served as Eisenhower Fellow to Thailand, Fulbright Scholar, President of the Midwest Conference of Asian Affairs, and multiple years on the organizing committees for the Council of Thai
Studies (COTS). Her publications include Rituals of National Loyalty: An Anthropology of the State and the Village Scout Movement in Thailand (Columbia University Press, 1997); Voices from the Thai Countryside: The Necklace and Other Short Stories of Samruam Singh (University of Wisconsin Southeast Asia Series, 1998), and her forthcoming book, Of Beggars and Buddhas: The Politics of Humor in the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand (University of Wisconsin Press). She is currently conducting research on Thailand’s famous northern monk, Khruubaa Srivichai, about whom she has recently published in JAS (2014).
Moderator: Yoko Hayami, CSEAS, Kyoto University