Shadow Masculinities: Nationalist Burmese Monastics and the Savage Muslim Male

Nevada Skye Drollinger-Smith, University of Colorado at Boulder

Abstract

This thesis is a gendered reading of Burma’s nationalist 969 Movement and aims to intervene in Orientalist tropes of the pacifist, self-effacing, non-political Buddhist monk, and seeks to place Burma’s current ethno-nationalist religious violence into historical context. Drawing on Burma’s political history from pre-colonial Buddhist polity to British colonial rule, independence, and Burma’s socialist and military governments, this thesis places Burma’s contemporary anti-Muslim riots against a historical backdrop of British divide-and-rule policy, nationalist political monks, and continually fostered attitudes of xenophobia and fear toward outsiders through the Socialist and military governments. I further argue that monastic supporters of the movement draw on this history of xenophobia in their rhetoric of the Muslim male as violent, rapacious, hyper-sexualized, and greedy. In deploying this rhetoric, these monks construct a hegemonic masculinity predicated on controlled sexuality and reproduction. This hegemonic masculinity operates such that Buddhist monastic privilege is retained in Burmese society.