Beyond Theological Essentialism and Ethnic Reductionism: A Review Essay about Religion and the Peace Process in Sri Lanka - PRIO

Beyond Theological Essentialism and Ethnic Reductionism: A Review Essay about Religion and the Peace Process in Sri Lanka

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Brekke, Torkel (2009) Beyond Theological Essentialism and Ethnic Reductionism: A Review Essay about Religion and the Peace Process in Sri Lanka, International Journal of Buddhist Thought and Culture 12: 125–156.

I review the extant research literature about the role of religious leaders and organizations in the peace process in Sri Lanka. I conclude that we know very little about most of the religious communities in the country. In fact, I have not been able to identify any serious research about the religious leaders or organizations in the Hindu, Muslim or Christian communities. Some research has been carried out on the role of Buddhist leaders and organizations. However, I believe that a large part of this academic literature may be classified as either theological essentialism or ethnic reductionism.

Theological essentialism takes religious doctrine as its point of departure, whereas ethnic reductionism sees religion as a static aspect of ethnic identity. In my view, both of these approaches have shortcomings. I propose that future research focus less on religion as doctrine and religion as a constituent of ethnic identity, and more on religious organizations in a transnational context, and religious leaders and their ways of exercising authority. I suggest some areas where more research would be valuable, particularly on matters related to the minority religions and their ambitions in a transnational context. 

Authors

Torkel Brekke

Torkel Brekke

Research Professor

Research Groups