Trans-boundary Ethnic Groups and Religious Transformation Project
Religion is not only a faith in the gods or a metaphysical philosophy, but it is often redefined as customs, manners, and culture by the people involved, rediscovered, used, and utilized as an expression of ethnic identity or a foothold of ethnic minorities demanding their status and rights. In this sense, religion is one of the important cultural resources. In Thailand where 95 % of the population is Buddhists, despite the provision of religious freedom in the Constitution, Buddhism is a basic element of identities of Thai people, and plays an important role in the formation of national and ethnic identities. This situation brings non-Buddhist ethnic minorities the problems of a sense of belonging to the nation, national consciousness, and their positions in the Buddhist country, as well as religious issues. On the other hand, in China, in spite of the trend of ethnic culture revival associated with the open reform policies, ethnic religions are placed under the control of national policies, because of the fear that they may turn to “superstitions” or “bad religions.” In this circumstance, while the ethnic minorities’ expressions of cultural identities are mobilizing religious elements such as oral traditions of myths and rituals, they are being used and utilized under the name of “ethnic cultures” or “customs and manners.” This project aims to research the current condition of ethnic religions and the possibilities of them in Thailand and China through fieldwork, with the cooperation of local institutions and researchers.