Benjamin Theobald (UCL) - 2019-20 Students

Making Novices: Ethics & Pedagogy in a Thai Monastic School

My project looks to examine questions of learning, pedagogy, and ethics in a Thai monastic school. The project has involved twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork at a Buddhist scripture school in a rural province of Northern Thailand. There, I conducted research predominantly structured around participant observation, spending time with the teachers and the novice monk students. My aim was to discover how processes of learning and teaching impart ethical ideals and identities through a monastic school education. In order to address this issue I examine the social and institutional context in which Buddhist monastic education has developed. The historical context of monastic schooling raises questions concerning modernity and ideological reform in Buddhist societies widely, and Thailand specifically. This work also explores the ethical ideals that hold currency at the monastic school and determines how these ideals are embodied in the various types of social practice undertaken at the monatic school. In order to describe how values and identities may be imparted through an education, this research examines how learning processes operate and how pedagogic projects are constructed. This research has the potential to make significant contributions to the anthropology of Buddhism and the rich vein of contemporary anthropological theory addressing ethics and their cultivation. Through an account that incorporates the processual nature of learning and cultural reproduction I aim to develop an account of ethical development that incorporates the fluctuating place of particular religious values as individuals move through an institution.

Primary supervisor: Dr Joanna Cook, UCL
Secondary supervisor: Dr Caroline Garaway, UCL

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