Old Monks, New Media, and the Limits of Soulcraft

Diane Winston

in Rethinking Religion and World Affairs

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199827978
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933020 | DOI:
Old Monks, New Media, and the Limits of Soulcraft

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In August 2007, the Burmese military junta raised the price of fuel by 500%, sparking panic in an already poverty-stricken nation. Subsequent reports of civilian protests were buried deep in international newspapers, but several weeks later when the nation's Buddhist monks joined in, the world took notice. A small trickle of wire service stories gave way to a tsunami of print, broadcast, and online coverage, including blogs, youtubes, and multi-media background pieces. Increased awareness of Burma's economic woes spurred world leaders, including United States' President George W. Bush, to initiate sanctions against the junta. On the grassroots level, thousands worldwide joined social networking sites where they could learn about the monks' campaign and support Burma's pro-democracy efforts. Why, how, and when did the American press take note of events in Burma and what role did religion play in capturing public attention? What was the impact of new media on the coverage and its reception? What role did Buddhism play in galvanizing public opinion? How did the story affect United States foreign policy, and what are the limits of “soulcraft,” the religious dimension of statecraft? This chapter examines events that occurred in Burma between mid-August and late September 2007, and in addition it looks at why Buddhism is central to understanding them.

Keywords: Burma; monks; military junta; religion; new media; Buddhism; U. S. foreign policy

Chapter.  7169 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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