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Making Novices: Education and Ethics in a Thai Monastic School

Theobald, Benjamin; (2023) Making Novices: Education and Ethics in a Thai Monastic School. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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This is an ethnographic study of Wat Don Khet Buddhist Scriptural School, a monastic secondary school educating novice monks in northern Thailand. Drawing on twelve months of fieldwork (carried out 2020-2021) involving participant observation and in-depth interviews with staff and students, the study deals with questions on projects of religious and secular education, and how these projects relate to the development of ethical subjectivities. This thesis sets out to chart the journeys boys make as they take ordination to complete their education in robes, contextualising the specific experiences of those enrolled at the field site institution in relation to the historical place of Thai novitiate ordination. By engaging with theoretical perspectives on the relationship between Buddhism and education in Thailand, the thesis examines the conflicts and confluences generated by the diverse forms of discourse governing approaches to education at Wat Don Khet School. Building on an analysis of the monastic school as an institution, the thesis sets out to describe how novice monks cultivated diverse modes of ethical subjectivity, that could both conform to and defy the expectations aNached to their religious position. This account speaks to critical debates in the anthropology of ethics, presenting a novel picture of the ways individuals may exercise their free capacities for self-cultivation via a relational negotiation with codes of moral discipline. As discourses on educational ideals become increasingly difficult to accommodate within the novitiate ordination tradition, institutions like Wat Don Khet School are called upon to transform while retaining their essential function of providing an education based in Buddhist ideals. This study captures a portrait of individuals, and an institution, undergoing difficult processes of metamorphosis. In doing so, it produces an account of how individuals cultivate ethical subjectivities that must reconcile an array of competing ideals.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Making Novices: Education and Ethics in a Thai Monastic School
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2023. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10180277
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