Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2015

Level of Access

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department or Program

Anthropology

Number of Pages

151

First Advisor

Kemper, Steven

Abstract

In recent years, Sri Lanka’s small Muslim minority has become the target of hatred and violence from right-wing organizations such as the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), who claim to be protecting the country’s Sinhala Buddhist majority from an emerging Islamic threat. In this thesis, I consider the sudden upsurge of anti-Muslim sentiment in Sri Lanka in the context of fears about global political Islam and minority persecution in Muslim-majority states. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in Sri Lanka with Buddhist monks and laypeople associated with the BBS and other nationalist groups, I consider the linkages between geographical politics, gendered bodies, and food consumption in Sinhala Buddhist Islamophobic discourse. I argue that globalization, which makes the politically weak Sri Lankan Muslim minority appear connected to powerful foreign forces, is deeply implicated in the BBS’s fear of a Muslim takeover, particularly due to Buddhist nationalist concerns about the Sinhala majority’s own lack of global influence. This work contributes to theorizations of majority-minority relations by suggesting that globally disconnected majorities who fear the possibility of “trading places” with globally connected minorities will justify violence and repression against the latter on supposedly defensive grounds.

Open Access

Available to all.

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