Stockholms universitet

Niklas FoxeusAffilierad universitetslektor

Om mig

Niklas Foxeus, Associate Professor (Docent), is currently a research fellow and senior lecturer at the Dept of History of Religions, ERG, Stockholm University. He received his PhD from that department in 2011 with a dissertation entitled “The Buddhist World Emperor’s Mission: Millenarian Buddhism in Postcolonial Burma.” Thereafter, he has conducted research within three research projects:

  • The encounter between Buddhism and capitalism in Burma/Myanmar, “prosperity Buddhism” (2013-2015), funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet);
  • Buddhist nationalism, and tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma/Myanmar (2015-2020), funded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities (Kungl. Vitterhetsakademien):
  • State-sanctioned Buddhism and deviant forms of Buddhism in Burma/Myanmar (2020-2023), funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet).



I urval från Stockholms universitets publikationsdatabas

  • Monastic Authority and Legitimizing Religio-Political Activism: Buddhist Nationalist Monks in Myanmar

    2023. Niklas Foxeus. Numen 70 (5-6), 542-574


    The Buddhist nationalist movements that emerged during the political and economic liberalization of the second parliamentarian period (2011–2021) in Burma/Myanmar provide unique material for the study of monastic authority. The aim of this article is to examine two overlapping dynamics regarding how monastic authority is established and undermined. As for the first dynamic, the article examines three strategies in Buddhist nationalist sermons aiming to provide legitimacy for the nationalist monks. The second dynamic is a political outgroup criticism that became more common during the period in question. The article makes a distinction between generic monastic authority, which is the fundamental one, and nationalist monastic authority, as they are legitimized and established in different ways. Finally, the article argues that recognition of monastic authority by laypeople is based not merely on trust and respect but tends to be a more complex process.

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  • Buddhist Nationalist Sermons in Myanmar: Anti-Muslim Moral Panic, Conspiracy Theories, and Socio-Cultural Legacies

    2022. Niklas Foxeus. Journal of Contemporary Asia, 1-27


    In Myanmar, Buddhist nationalist movements created a pan-Burmese anti-Muslim moral panic in response to the political and economic liberalisation starting in 2011 and to riots between Buddhists and Muslims that erupted from 2012. Based mainly on Buddhist nationalist sermons and speeches, but also on interviews and fieldwork, the aim of this article is to examine the historical and cultural roots of the anti-Muslim moral panic and its political ramifications. This article argues that Buddhist nationalist sermons contributed to moral panic in three ways. First through aspects of monastic authority by which nationalist, anti-Muslim discourse was authorised. Second, an anti-Muslim conspiracy theory going back to the 1950s and an ingrained historical narrative feeding a sense of collective victimhood and vulnerability among the Buddhist majority created fear that provides justification of discrimination and violence. Third, is a perceived existential threat to Buddhism and Myanmar’s sovereignty considered to be posed by groups of Muslims (local and international) that were interconnected in the nationalist imagination; a sense of threat that was reinforced by a globalised Islamophobia. 

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  • Performing the Nation in Myanmar: Buddhist Nationalist Rituals and Boundary-Making

    2022. Niklas Foxeus. Bijdragen Tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 178 (2-3), 272-305


    In 2012, Buddhist nationalist movements in Myanmar started to emerge, disseminating a Buddhist nationalist discourse that aimed to protectively demarcate their nation from the perceived threat posed by Muslims. In sermons, monks exhorted their audiences to make nationalist vows to protect their nation, country, and Buddhism. The aim of this article is to investigate some ritual, discursive, and performative aspects of Buddhist nationalist sermons, and the social dynamics they entailed. The article first examines and analyses three recurrent discursive complexes of the Buddhist nationalist sermons delivered in 2013–2015; it will also look at how the monks drew on their social power and on discursive and performative power to create a boundary around their Buddhist nation and to mobilize Buddhists to protect it, thereby performing their nation. Second, the article examines two ways in which sermons that aimed to protect the Buddha’s dispensation (collectivistic religion) contributed to creating social cohesion and community.

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  • Lottery Mania in Burma/Myanmar: Prosperity Buddhism and Promoting the Buddha’s Dispensation

    2022. Niklas Foxeus. Spirit Possession in Buddhist Southeast Asia, 164-187

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  • Leaving Theravāda Buddhism in Myanmar

    2019. Niklas Foxeus. Handbook of Leaving Religion, 116-129


    This chapter examines narratives of Burmese Buddhists who have left the “traditional” Theravāda Buddhism in Burma, into which they were born, for the teachings – stamped “heretical” and illegal by the state – of a dissident Buddhist monk, Ashin Nyāna.

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  • Spirits, Mortal Dread, and Ontological Security

    2018. Niklas Foxeus. Journal of the American Academy of Religion 86 (4), 1107-1147


    Following the global spread of capitalism and increasing impact of cultural globalization since the 1990s, prosperity religion, nationalist movements, and religious fundamentalism have emerged throughout the world. This article argues that such global tendencies intersect in certain forms of “prosperity Buddhism” that have emerged in recent years in Burma/Myanmar. As this article demonstrates, a novel Buddhist imaginary linked to prosperity Buddhism has evolved that represents a transformation of previous notions. The article argues that it can serve as a resource mainly for women to get success in business and can provide them with a way to negotiate Buddhist identity and acquire a sense of ontological security in rapidly changing urban areas. It can also serve as a means for social control and maintaining hegemonic power relations. For ritual specialists, these novel cults serve as the recurrent strategy of saving the Buddha’s dispensation in the face of rapid change.

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  • Possessed for Success

    2017. Niklas Foxeus. Contemporary Buddhism 18 (1), 108-139


    Following the global spread of capitalism from the early 1990s, individualistic, non-institutionalised prosperity religion and occult economies' have emerged throughout the world, including South-East Asia, but have seemingly not yet been investigated with respect to Burma/Myanmar. This article focuses on the cult of the guardians of the treasure trove - a form of prosperity Buddhism' - in Upper Burma, wherein predominantly business women of lower middle classes perform possession dances to become successful in business. It has partly evolved from the lower status traditional' possession cult of the 37 Lords. The aim of this article is threefold. Firstly, it examines novel kinds of Buddhicised' possession rituals of higher status that discard religious specialists. These practices represent a democratisation of public spirit-mediumship and provide a route for success in business, agency and empowerment. Secondly, it is demonstrated that these cults seek to preserve Buddhism in the face of the current rapid changes in Burma. Thirdly, this article shows how these novel cults emerged in dynamic interplay with recent economic, social and political changes in Burma, as well as an increasing impact of globalisation.

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  • Mimicking the State in Burma/Myanmar: Royal, Nationalist and Militant Ideology in a New Buddhist Movement

    2016. Niklas Foxeus. Bijdragen Tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 172 (2-3), 197-224


    In the early post-independence period in Burma, a large number of hierarchical, initiatory, and secretive esoteric congregations were founded by charismatic leaders in urban areas. These attracted many devotees, including representatives of the state. The relationship between the state and the esoteric congregations was tense, especially during the rule of the military governments (1962–2011), and the state sought to suppress the congregations in the early 1980s.In this article, one esoteric congregation—the ariyā-weizzā organization—is taken as an example of these congregations. First, the article demonstrates how the members of this congregation view themselves as performing the state, and shows what kind of power they perceive themselves to exercise. Second, in socio-political terms, the article seeks to explain why tensions emerged between the state and the esoteric congregations, and it demonstrates how these congregations have contributed to performing the state.

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  • “I am the Buddha, the Buddha is Me”: Concentration Meditation and Esoteric Modern Buddhism in Burma/Myanmar

    2016. Niklas Foxeus. Numen 63 (4), 411-445


    In postcolonial Burma, two trends within lay Buddhism — largely in tension with one another — developed into large-scale movements. They focused upon different meditation practices, insight meditation and concentration meditation, with the latter also including esoteric lore. An impetus largely shared by the movements was to define an “authentic” Buddhism to serve as the primary vehicle of the quest for individual, local, and national identity. While insight meditation was generally considered Buddhist meditation par excellence, concentration meditation was ascribed a more dubious Buddhist identity. Given this ambiguity, it could be considered rather paradoxical that concentration meditation could be viewed as a source of “authentic” Buddhism. The aim of this article is to investigate the issue of identity and the paradox of authenticity by examining the concentration meditation practices of one large esoteric congregation and tentatively comparing its practices with those of the insight meditation movement. It will be argued that the movements represented two varieties of so-called modern Buddhism (rationalist modern Buddhism and esoteric modern Buddhism) drawing on different Buddhist imaginaries and representing two main trends that are largely diametrically opposed to one another. They therefore represent two ways of constructing an individual, local, and national identity.

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