Female Forerunners and Modern Monastic Life-Writing in Myanmar


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


Asian Studies


This dissertation examines twentieth century life-writing by and about Buddhist monastic women in Myanmar (thilashin) and its role in the consolidation and succession of their institutions and communities. In Myanmar, women are excluded from ordination and male monastic lineage as techniques of succession that ensure the cohesion, authority, and transmission of complex corporate identities, economic resources, and symbolic capital across space and time. In concert with monks and lay supporters, thilashin have laid claim to and maximized the genre of monastic biography to mobilize and authorize their devotional acuity, sources of patronage, property claims, institutional affiliations, and broader idioms of belonging. By tracing the relational maps and material infrastructures recounted in biographies of thilashin, the project amplifies intimate historiographies of alternative connective forces of religious belonging and asserts the vital labor performed by thilashin and lay devotees to innovate and reproduce Buddhist communities, institutions, and teachings.