Book Review: Buddhism in a Dark Age: Cambodian Monks under Pol Pot

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    Most scholars of Southeast Asia are well aware that an individual's relationship with the Buddhist community, or Sangha, is central to Khmer religious practice, and that Buddhist monks occupy essential sociocultural roles as educators and spiritual guides in Cambodian society. But despite the importance of Buddhist monks to most Cambodians, the Communist Party of Kampuchea's (CPK) violent persecution of the country's ethnic minorities tends to take the spotlight in the existing scholarship on the Cambodian genocide. It is for such a reason that Ian Harris' Buddhism in a Dark Age: Cambodian Monks under Pol Pot is such a welcome addition. An Emeritus Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Cumbria, Harris combines archival materials with dozens of interviews with genocide survivors to argue that successive Cambodian regimes "have sought to disengage Cambodian Buddhism from its traditional roots through the introduction of a modernist emphasis on the value of the monk's engagement in socially progressive activity" (170). Rather than something disembodied, passive, or "devoid of purchase on historical and political reality," Harris asserts that Buddhism remained influential even in lieu of the Sangha's marginalization and the defrocking of monks, serving as an extant source for CPK thought and policies
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)360-362
    JournalPacific Affairs
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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