My doctoral dissertation addresses gender and religion in Thailand, analysed through the lens of the Thai Buddhist nuns' lives, actions and role in Thai society. Since my dissertation, I have focused on four strands of academic work and research:
- The study of gender and Buddhism in contemporary Thailand
- Research on gender and socially engaged Buddhism
- Anthropology of disaster, cultural resilience and gender and disaster
- Gender and transnational student mobility
My research interests include gender, socially engaged Buddhism, anthropology of disaster, ethnography, new religious movements, women’s movements, education, religion and development, social change in South-East Asia and anthropology and politics of memory. My scholarship includes fieldwork in Southeast Asia, especially in Thailand.
Recent research projects
In the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Thailand
I have carried out anthropological research on the recovery after the Indian Ocean tsunami catastrophe in Thailand. I conducted long-term fieldwork and I followed the post-tsunami recovery over five years. The project’s focus is on the significance of culture, religion and local resilience in small fishing communities hit by the tsunami in Southern Thailand. I explore local adaptation strategies and investigate human resilience, coping and recovery. The project examined aspects of experiences of disaster and recovery from a gender perspective and the fieldwork comprises observations, narratives and material from in-depth interviews with survivors, relatives, relief workers, officials and Buddhist monks and nuns.
Research on gender and socially engaged Buddhism
Socially engaged Buddhism is a non-centralized movement that emerged in response to multiple crises in contemporary Asia. It has been described as a modern form of Buddhism, influenced by modern, social, economic, psychological and political forms of analysis of Western origin. I have researched and published on gender and Buddhism’s role in civil society. I explore Buddhist nuns’ efforts in providing secular as well as Buddhist education for underprivileged women and I have conducted research on how female monastic communities have facilitated educational opportunities for children and women in Thailand. Engaged Buddhism can sometimes be seen as controversial simply because it challenges tradition by working in innovative ways. I have interviewed Buddhist monks and nuns about their engagement with people living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand.
I have taken an interest in new Buddhist religious movements’ engagement in society. I have interviewed members of the Buddhist Asoke movement and published on their social commitment and critique of modernity and the role of Buddhism in contemporary Thailand.
Current research projects
Politics of memory together
Politics of memory is a relatively new research interest that I have developed and worked on within the Nordic Gendering Asia Network. In post-conflict situations such as war, disaster and turbulence, both individuals and societies have to deal with the memories of what has happened. This research interest concerns gendered aspects of memories of violence, which happened during wartime and after disasters. It includes the ways in which individuals deal with memories of war and colonialism, and also how these individual narratives are part (or not part) of a collective memory and consequently how the collective memory is constructed. I am currently working on the theme “politics of memory” together with Associate Professor Pauline Stoltz, at FREIA, Feminist Research Centre in Aalborg, Department of Culture and Global Studies, Aalborg University.
Gender and transnational student mobility
Currently I am working on an interdisciplinary study on transnational student mobility within Asia. This research project focuses on young people’s strategies, conditions and educational goals. By adopting a transnational perspective the project focuses on trans-boundary mobility in which individuals, through daily activities and social, religious, economic and political relations, create social fields that transcend national borders. The study is based on an individual perspective with a focus on life stories and uses interviews as a method. Particular interest is paid to power hierarchies based on class, ethnicity, gender and religion. This project includes six researchers, four from Lund University and two from Gothenburg University. We work on six sub-studies and I am conducting a sub-study for which I am interviewing young women from Myanmar who receive higher education in Thailand and Thai women who have achieved higher education in India.
Communal Jurisdiction of Non-ordained Female Renunciants in the Southern Buddhist Tradition: Myanmar-Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka
This study is funded by American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and is carried out in collaboration with Assoc. Prof. Hiroko Kawanami, Lancaster University and Prof. Nirmala S. Salgado, Augustana College.
There are many studies about the monastic rules and regulations of ordained bhikkhunis, however studies about the communal rules currently observed by non-ordained female renunciants in the Southern tradition are lacking. The purpose of this research is to investigate case studies of various communities of Buddhist female renunciants; nunnery schools, institutions, meditation centers, and nuns’ hermitages in Myanmar, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, in order to investigate how they regulate their monastic life and maintain communal cohesion.