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Identity and Religion among the Contemporary Cham Ahiér in Vietnam


Identity and Religion among the Contemporary Cham Ahiér in Vietnam

Mai, Bui Dieu Linh (2023) Identity and Religion among the Contemporary Cham Ahiér in Vietnam. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis examines contemporary Cham Ahiér identity and religion by asking two major questions: How has religion shaped (and how does it continue to shape) Cham identity; and how can the identity and religion of the Cham be understood through an analysis of rituals? To answer these questions, the author explores the ways in which Cham Ahiér identity was conceptualized by Western scholars and local Cham intellectuals and compares it with the identity construed through ritual activities conducted by ordinary Cham villagers. French colonial scholars of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were the first to suggest that Cham Ahiér are “Brahmanistes” or “Hindouistes” and thus categorized Cham identity on the basis of the assumption that the contemporaneous Cham villagers continued to practice the religion represented in medieval architectural and sculptural artifacts of the kingdom of Champa. This identification produced in the colonial period was used as the groundwork which numerous later researchers built upon. The Vietnamese term “Chăm Bàlamôn,” adapted from the French term “Cham Brahmanistes,” became a fixed category and now serves as the official state-sanctioned term for identification of this particular group of Cham. Contemporary overseas Cham scholars define this group of Cham as “adherents to an indigenized form of Hinduism” or “syncretic Hindu Cham.” In turn, prominent native Cham scholars and intellectuals residing in Vietnam challenged the use of the term “Chăm Bàlamôn” and claimed that it is a foreign term applied by outsiders. They suggested instead the term “Cham Ahiér,” a religious identity designation which is understood as being paired with the term “Cham Awal” through the dualistic cosmological concept of “Ahiér-Awal,” with communities of both “Cham Ahiér” and “Cham Awal” having been “Islamized” through their Malay neighbours. Stepping aside from all these propositions, this thesis takes a fresh look at the contemporary Cham Ahiér community by examining rituals conducted by ordinary villagers as the key to understanding Cham Ahiér identity, and most importantly, Cham Ahiér religion. The author argues that various contexts and discourses constitute different levels of the Cham Ahiér religious identity, and that it is necessary to investigate how it was constructed and perceived by both Cham intellectuals and ordinary Cham villagers. By exploring Cham Ahiér rituals, this thesis shows the extent to which both Hindu and Islamic elements have been adopted, and the means by which this adoption was accomplished. The objective of this thesis is not to categorize, label, or impose upon this group of Cham any specific term of identification that may relate to any other world religion, but to consider the ways that disparate elements cohere in the religion as currently practiced. In other words, this thesis describes how the Cham religion works on a practical ritual level. The author concludes that Cham Ahiér religion is neither systematic nor centralized, and that its rituals represent a mixture, patchwork, and juxtaposition coming from different sources of traditions accumulated over time.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Religions and Cultures
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Mai, Bui Dieu Linh
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:31 March 2023
Thesis Supervisor(s):Orr, Leslie
ID Code:992023
Deposited On:21 Jun 2023 14:16
Last Modified:21 Jun 2023 14:16
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