Northern Thailand

Ferrying Across the Flood: The Ethics of the Dhamma-Vinyana as the Basis of Buddhist Development Theory and Practice

undergraduate thesis, Trent University (field work: 2005-2007)

This thesis analyses the theory and practice of Buddhist development at various levels of abstraction: from fundamental tenets, to the general goals and models that describe those tenets, to the specific strategies that flesh out actual goals and models. Such an investigation necessarily takes place at the nexus between religion, ethics, and development, which is not well-travelled terrain either within or outside of academia. In this particular inquiry an approach via ethics is purposefully adopted, not in order to circumvent the transmundane or to assert that all ontological needs can be reduced to the secular and psycho-social, but in order to reveal the rational moral basis for faith-based advocacy aimed at desirable socio-economic change. Such a method dissolves claims that ‘religious’ understandings and initiatives are illogical, inscrutable, or worship-centred, and thus champions their inclusion in normative, contemporary views of human flourishing. Buddhist development theory and practice establishes that it is possible to deliberately ground theoretical and actual socio-economic change in clear normative principles, joining the inwardly-oriented realm of personal morality and the outwardly-oriented realm of ethical social engagement. Further, it reveals the sought-after link between theory and practice – the element that gives rise to consistency – to be ethics. Deep inside, at the very heart of Buddhist conceptualizations of human flourishing, can be found the ethics of the dhamma-vinyana.

 

Andean Perú

Decolonization as Relocalization: Conceptual and Strategic Frameworks of the Parque de la Papa, Qosqo

master’s thesis, University of Victoria (field work: 2011-2012)

The work at hand traces the trajectory of one particular iteration of decolonization praxis, from its origins in pre-colonial Andean thought through to the consciously traditional collective life being forged by six Quechua communities in the Urubamba Valley of Qosqo, Perú. Through examining the practical and metaphysical parentage of strategies, it seeks to uncover whether and how these communities were able to bring traditional perspectives forward and put them to work in the world as contemporary initiatives of decolonization and resurgence. The work detailed here offers a rebuttal to prior theories of an ‘Indigenous political absence’ in the Peruvian highlands, through offering evidence of a uniquely Andean place-based politics. It finds that – though not without cautionary lessons – ANDES and the communities of the Parque de la Papa succeed in rooting contemporary strategies in traditional conceptual frameworks, drawing on a variety of tactics to assert the primacy of the relationship between Runakuna (Andean Peoples) and tirakuna (Andean lands). The conceptualizing, founding, and functioning of the Parque reflect a conscious attempt to revitalize and repatriate the cultural landscape of the Andean ayllu, the emblematic Quechua community that has been mischaracterized and marginalized for centuries. This is decolonization as relocalization, wherein the ‘local,’ ubiquitous in (and almost a mandatory element of) non- and anti-state discourses is reconceptualised as ‘emplacement.’

 

American Midwest

Irreconciled and Unforgiven: Emotion, Virtue, and the Politics of Reparation in Mini Sota Makoce

doctoral dissertation, University of Victoria (field work: 2015-2016)

According to legal philosopher Robert Solomon, “[n]o one, not even a saint, can have a sense of justice without the capacity for anger and outrage” – yet there has been little work on these retributive passions in the historical injustice canon generally, and virtually none in the work on reparations politics in Settler-colonial states in particular. While those who express anger, resentment, and indignation in the face of contemporary Indigenous-Settler reconciliation projects are absent from the academic literature, they are often portrayed in popular media as politically opportunistic, merely intransigent, or emotionally unwell. That troubling absence and these problematic portrayals are probed by examining resistance to reconciliation in Minnesota, where both Settler and Indigenous communities still struggle over the actual facts, correct interpretation, and proper response to the 1862 frontier war with the Dakota Oyate – a struggle that persists despite an unprecedented two formal reconciliation initiatives (a “year of reconciliation” in 1987 and another state-wide undertaking in 2012). This project explores persistent resistance to reconciliation in Minnesota/Mini Sota Macoce from multiple political, moral, affective, and historical perspectives. It finds that these expressions of refusal in the context of an active, recurrent reparations politics are not adequately described by existing theoretical frameworks, nor can they be reduced to individual episodes of withholding, non-overcoming, or lack. They are, instead, assertions of alternative political virtues; and further, emblematic of a new, powerful, emotional, and strategic politics of ‘irreconciliation’ and ‘unforgiveness’ in Settler-colonial states.