Abstract

Abstract:

This article examines the role of Free Funeral Service Societies in informing ongoing changes in Burmese society in two aspects: economy of merit and civil society. This article shows how Free Funeral Service Societies supersede existing neighborhood mutual-aid associations in providing funeral services, thus creating an emerging civil society space in which to imagine social goodness through charitable giving and voluntary social work, as a form of merit-making practice, intended to alleviate suffering. This article argues that Free Funeral Service Societies have created and provided institutionalized access to a laicized economy of merit. This laicized economy of merit focuses on the role of laypersons in social welfare provision for the general public, rather than the ritual exchange between lay donors and monastic recipients central to the conventional practice of merit-making. As Free Funeral Service Societies have upheld and promoted a non-exclusive approach to social welfare provision that does not discriminate on the basis of race and religion, a socially-inclusive ethos has been growing. Free Funeral Service Societies have become a location for interfaith collaboration where individuals and organizations both with Buddhist and non-Buddhist affiliations can engage in moral cultivation and liberation through provision of social welfare for the public. This article argues that Free Funeral Service Societies are creating a civil society in the making that transcends and encompasses long-existing ethnic and religious divisions in Myanmar.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2010-314X
Print ISSN
1094-799X
Pages
pp. 1-36
Launched on MUSE
2019-10-03
Open Access
No
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