Merit-Making Activities and the Latent Ideal of the Buddhist Wat in Southwestern Cambodia

Matthew O'Lemmon


The divergent experiences surrounding merit-making acts represent the distinct backgrounds of individuals and communities that have emerged in postwar Cambodia. This article examines merit-making activities in two Buddhist temples in southwestern Cambodia and the influence of political patronage on temple–community relationships. This influence elicits images of a latent ideal of the Buddhist monastery that are used by local communities to form a social critique both of such political involvement within temples and of the destabilising effect it has on local people’s merit-making activities. This ideal also reflected the political economies and social networks created within the temples that comprised two different models of patronage and means of accessing resources.

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