Iselin Frydenlund

Senior Researcher

Iselin Frydenlund
Mobile phone: 47976 38 992

Research Interests

  • Religion in war and peace
  • Religion in international relations
  • Religion and violence
  • Religion in military institutions
  • Suicide terrorism
  • Interreligious dialogue & interreligious relations
  • Freedom of religion or belief
  • Buddhism and violence
  • Buddhism and politics
  • Sri Lanka
  • Myanmar



Iselin Frydenlund is senior researcher at PRIO. Her research interests include the role of religion in war and peace, religion and violence, suicide terrorism, interreligious dialogue in its various forms, and freedom of religion or belief. She works specifically with Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, currently focusing on Buddhist-Muslim relations. She is particularly interested in fieldwork methodology in the study of religion in its social context, as well as fieldwork ethics. Since 2013 she has been working together with the Buddhist Federation of Norway and monastic organizations in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Bangladesh, on religious minority rights in Buddhist majority states. She is also Research Fellow at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo, where she leads a project on legislation of religion in Myanmar.


2015/04- Senior researcher, PRIO (Social Dynamics).

2015/04- Research fellow, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights (NCHR), Faculty, of Law, University of Oslo (UiO).

2014/02-2015/03 Visiting scholar, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, UiO.

2014-2015/03 Project coordinator, Buddhist Federation of Norway. Intra-Buddhist dialogue project in Maynmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Bangladesh, funded by NORAD.

2014 Researcher (short term mission), PRIO, MFA report on religion and conflict.

2012-2013 Senior Adviser to the Research Council of Norway, Division for Science.

2011-2012 Researcher and university lecturer at UiO, Department of cultural studies and oriental languages (IKOS).

2012 February – March, researcher for the project “Religion in Norwegian Foreign Policy”, IKOS, UiO.

2012 January-March, educational responsible for training course for university teachers, Department of Educational Research, Faculty of Educational Sciences, UiO.

2004-2005 Researcher and project leader on the research project “The Sangha and its relation to the peace process in Sri Lanka”, at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

2003-2004 Part-time lecturer, UiO (Buddhist studies and fieldwork methodology).


2012-2013 Norwegian representative to the Domain Committee of Individuals, Societies, Cultures and Health (ISCH) in COST (EU).

2005-2012 Steering Board Member, Asianettverket (Network for Asia studies in Norway).

2010-2012 Member of external board, co-operation between PRIO and Indian Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA).

2008 Institute board member, IKOS.

1996-1997 National leader of the Latin America groups in Norway (elected).


2011 PhD defense, 15. June 2011. University of Oslo (UiO). Dissertation on Buddhism and the civil war in Sri Lanka.

2003 Cand.Philol. degree in religious studies, UiO, including post graduate studies in the Sociology of Religion, London School of Economics Science (LSE).


PRIO started tracking events online in 2007. This listing is not complete. Past events may be mentioned in our news archive.



Dissertations and monographs

Doctoral Dissertation:

Frydenlund, Iselin (2011): “Canonical ambiguity and differential practices: Buddhist monks in wartime Sri Lanka”, Doctoral Dissertation, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oslo, Oslo (Monograph).

Cand. Philol thesis:

Frydenlund, Iselin (2003) “Kataragama in a time of national crisis. Diversity and exclusion in a sacred place in Sri Lanka”, University of Oslo.

Refereed journal articles

Frydenlund, Iselin (2013): “Religion, civility and conflict – towards a concept of critical civility’”, Studies in interreligious dialogue (23:1).

Frydenlund, Iselin (2004): «Buddhaer og bazukaer: motstridende bilder av vold og buddhisme på Sri Lanka», Din. Tidsskrift For Religion og Kultur.

Book chapters

Frydenlund, Iselin (forthcoming): ““The Invention of Buddhist Pacifism?”, in (eds) Huesken, Thikonov, Havnevik & Teeuwen, Buddhism and modernity.

Frydenlund, Iselin (forthcoming): “Particularist goals through universalist means: the political paradoxes of Buddhist revivalism in Sri Lanka” in ed. Kawanami, Hiroko: Buddhism and the political process.

Frydenlund, Iselin (2015) “’Operation dharma’: the Sri Lankan Army as an instrument of Buddhist nationalism”, in Military chaplaincy in a pluralist age, eds Torkel Brekke and Vladimir Thikonov. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Frydenlund, Iselin (2013) "The Protection of Dharma and Dharma as Protection: Buddhism and Security across Asia", in The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Security, eds Chris Seiple, Dennis R. Hoover, and Pauletta Otis. London & New York: Routledge.

Frydenlund, Iselin (2012) "Canonical ambiguity and differential practices: Buddhism and militarism in contemporary Sri Lanka", in Violent Buddhism: Buddhism and Militarism in Asia in the Twentieth Century, eds Torkel Brekke and Vladimir Thikonov. New York: Routledge.

Frydenlund, Iselin (2005): ”Hør Her! Du som er fra Norge. Feltarbeidserfaringer fra et konfliktfylt Sri Lanka”. I: Kulturvitenskap i felt. Metodiske og pedagogiske erfaringer, Høyskoleforlaget, p.163-183 (on fieldwork in conflict areas and fieldwork ethics.

Publications in non-refereed journals

Frydenlund, Iselin (2004): ”Krig og buddhisme på Sri Lanka – en motsetning?”, PACEM Militært tidsskrift for etisk og teologisk refleksjon 7:2.

Frydenlund, Iselin (2001) «Kataragama: der et splittet Sri Lanka møtes», Tredjeverdenmagasinet X.


Frydenlund, Iselin (2014): Engaging with religion in peacebuilding: opportunities and pitfalls. PRIO report (2014), commissioned by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Frydenlund, Iselin (2005): The Sangha and its relations to the Peace Process in Sri Lanka. Oslo: Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO Report 2/2005).

Op.eds and media papers

Frydenlund, Iselin (22.03.2015) "Den sekulære selvmordsbomberen", op. ed. Dagbladet.

Frydenlund, Iselin (11.04.2014) “Ekspansiv humaniora” (on the role of the humanities), op.ed. Morgenbladet.

Frydenlund, Iselin, Anne Stensvold og Cecilie Endresen (19.01.2012) ”Et vitenskapelig studium av religion” («A scientific study of religion»), op.ed, Aftenposten.

Frydenlund, Iselin & Wenche Hauge (02.04. 2004) ”Valg i et fragmentert Sri Lanka”, Bergens Tidende.


2014 “’I am proud not to vote!’ Political rights, legal pluralism and gender in Buddhist Sri Lanka”, International Law conference on “Human Rights and Legal Pluralism in Theory and Practice”, UiO.

2014 “Protecting Buddhism through Law”, joint public lecture with Prof. Gerhard van der Schyff (Tilburg) on Legal Pluralism and Human Rights, Faculty of Law, UiO.

2014 “Buddhist radicalism, religious violence and democratization in Myanmar”, public seminar at Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, UiO. 22. September.

2014 “Religion and law in Sri Lanka: the legal turn of Buddhist nationalism”, Conference on “Buddhism and Social Justice (NWO sponsored VICI project), led by Prof. J Silk, 23.-25. April.

2014 “A comparative note on religious dialogue”, Conference on “Religious minorities in Buddhist majority states”, University of Oxford, UK, 15.-16. March

2013 “Religion, civility and conflict – towards a concept of “critical civility”, 6th Annual Conference of the International Research Network on Religion and Democracy (IRNRD), Notre Dame University, Beirut, Lebanon, 11-12 December.

2013 “Pacifism as a modern Buddhist discourse?”, paper presented at the “Buddhist modernist conference” at UiO/IKOS, funded by PLUREL, 3-4 December.

2013 "Militant Buddhism: one the rise in Asia?", The Department of Ethnography, Museum of Cultural History, UiO.

2013 “’Operation dharma’: the Sri Lankan Army as an instrument of Buddhist nationalism”, paper presented at the PluRel conference Military chaplaincy in a pluralist age, UiO. 18-19 May.

2012 “Talk the Talk or Walk the Walk? Religious Leaders in Peacebuilding”, international PRIO conference.

2012 “Bruk av wiki i studentundervisning. Noen erfaringer fra grasrota”, Lecture at Department of Educational Research, Faculty of Educational Sciences, UiO.

List of popular science and user oriented dissemination (select)

2012 “When a pacifist religion goes to war: the role of religion in times of violent conflict”, at the Comprehensive Approach Seminar, Religion and Conflicts, NATO: Joint Warfare Centre (JWC), Stavanger, Norway.

2011 ”Public meeting on religion, war and reconciliation”, organized by The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights and the University of Tromsø, Tromsø.

2011 "Bundet av fred - Norges rolle på Sri Lanka". Public debate on the role of Norway in Sri Lanka’s peace process, Faculty of Social Sciences, UiO.

2011 22. juli, ”Doktoren svarer: hvorfor støttet munker på Sri Lanka vold?”, Morgenbladet (interview).

Frydenlund, Iselin (7 December 2011) “Religion, civility and conflict: towards a concept of 'critical civility'”, blog entry at the PluRel blog, UiO.

2011 “The Island of Dharma: Sri Lanka as sacred land”, public lecture, Tamil Student Organization, NTNU.

2009 “Kataragama – a sacred place for reconciliation? Pilgrims in conflict-ridden Sri Lanka”, part of Exhibition program, Museum of Cultural History, UiO.

2008 “Celebration of Sri Lanka’s National Day”, national television, NRK.

2005 – 2014 Several radio interviews, National radio (NRK, Dagnsytt Atten), and concerning the Sri Lanka peace process, Buddhism and violence and Buddhist-Muslim tensions in South and Southeast Asia.

Recent publications

Frydenlund, Iselin (2016) Particularist Goals through Universalist Means: The Political Paradoxes of Buddhist Revivalism in Sri Lanka, in Hiroko Kawanami, ed., Buddhism and the Political Process. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (97–120).

All publications

Book Chapter

Frydenlund, Iselin (2016) Particularist Goals through Universalist Means: The Political Paradoxes of Buddhist Revivalism in Sri Lanka, in Hiroko Kawanami, ed., Buddhism and the Political Process. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (97–120).

Popular Article

Frydenlund, Iselin (2015) Buddhismen som demokratisk kraft [Buddhism as a democratic force], Aftenposten.
Frydenlund, Iselin (2015) Tradisjon for fredelig sameksistens i fare [The tradition of peaceful coexistence is in danger], Aftenposten.

PRIO Report

Frydenlund, Iselin (2005) The Sangha and its Relation to the Peace Process in Sri Lanka, PRIO Report, 2. Oslo: PRIO.

Conference Paper

Frydenlund, Iselin (2015) Conflicting Notions of Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka, presented at Religious violence in South(East) Asia: domestic and transnational drivers of intolerance against Muslim minorities, Amsterdam, 15th June 2015.
Frydenlund, Iselin (2015) Religion in Peacebuilding – Possibilities and Pitfalls, presented at International Summer School, Oslo, 8th July 2015.

Report - External Series

Frydenlund, Iselin (2015) The rise of Buddhist-Muslim conflict in Asia and possibilities for transformation, NOREF Policy Brief. Oslo: NOREF.

Blog Posts

Myanmar: What now for Women and Minorities?

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund on Thursday, 17 December 2015

Will Aung San Suu Kyi dare to engage in a direct confrontation with religious nationalism and insist that the new parliament reconsider Myanmar’s laws on
 race and religion? Doing so could cost her dearly. Sexual violence Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has been in a continuous state of civil war since its foundation as a state in 1948. Different ethnic minorities have opposed the central government, because they view the state as illegitimate. The resulting wars have led to enormous suffering for women, men and children. War affects women and men differently, however. A particularly serious consequence has been the ...

Are Myanmar's Monks Hindering Democratization?

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund on Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The upcoming general elections in Myanmar raise the question of religion’s role in democratisation processes. Previously Buddhism has been an important force in favour of democracy, but in the 2015 election campaign strong Buddhist forces are supporting the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). This is their democratic right, but it may hinder further political reforms and democratisation in Myanmar. Buddhist nationalism has flourished since political reforms were introduced in 2011. Leading Buddhist monks have formed the Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, generally known by the abbreviation ‘MaBaTha’, which has the aim of promoting Buddhist interests. ...

Endangered Co-Existence: Buddhist-Muslim Friction in Asia

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund on Friday, 26 June 2015

Disputes about everything from holy sites to ritual animal slaughter and compulsory family planning are causing dangerous tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in countries such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Friction between Buddhists and Muslims in Southeast Asia is putting pressure on a centuries-long tradition of religious co-existence, tolerance and shared cultural values. Hate speech, violence involving Buddhists and Muslims, attacks on religious minorities, and new laws designed to control religious conversion, family planning and interfaith marriage are now contributing to increased conflict in the region. Dramatic increase In recent years, the number of attacks on Muslim minorities in Buddhist ...

The Buddhist Face of Peace: Buddhist Peace Initiatives in Times of Religious Intolerance

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund & Susan Hayward on Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Buddhist radicalism is on the rise in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Buddhist anti-Muslim rhetoric, violence against Muslim minorities and hate speech against UN officials are now global media sensations. Less known is the growing number of religious peace initiatives, by both Muslims and Buddhists, to address the situation. Recently, practitioners and scholars met in Bangkok to discuss ways forward. Anti-Muslim violence Both Sri Lanka and Myanmar have witnessed severe verbal and physical attacks on their Muslim minorities since 2012. For further reading on this, see for example The New York Times, The Democratic Voice of Burma, and Reuters. ...

The Secular Suicide Bomber

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund on Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Is the all-consuming focus on Islam leading us to ignore the fact that suicide attacks have also been carried out by Christian, Hindu and secular martyrs? There can be no doubt that violent actions conducted in the name of Islam constitute a threat to state and individual security not only in Europe, but most of all in the Muslim world itself. The question, however, is whether the all-consuming focus on Islam is leading us to ignore the fact that suicide attacks have also been carried out by Christian, Hindu and secular martyrs. Such actions are motivated by politics, strategy and ...