Towards Autonomous Beings and "Docile Bodies": Myanmar Buddhist Nuns' Educational Practices and Rituals in Training


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


Department for the Study of Religion


My dissertation project analyzes Myanmar Buddhist nuns' education, both formal and informal, and how and why some of these nuns are able to become successful teachers and leaders. This research fills in the gaps on Buddhist nuns in literature on monastic education, which is usually centered on monks. I build on Hiroko Kawanami's pioneering research on Myanmar nuns. However, as Kawanami’s work produced the first comprehensive overview, my work will be more specifically dedicated to the nuns' education and training. It focuses on one specific institution in Sagaing, Myanmar, a main monastic hub, while paying attention to the networks and relationships that these nuns have with other nunneries and monasteries in the area. Research methods include an analysis of the textbooks used, participant observation in classes and during ritual performances, resulting in rich ethnographic descriptions with the nuns' voices at the center, helping us to understand the formative forces that shape the personal and institutional development of Buddhist nuns in today's Myanmar.