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Infelicities in Agraria

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posted on 2021-11-14, 08:53 authored by Woods, Elle Laura

In his study Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities; Utopias of the Pali Imaginaire, Steven Collins aptly argues that as society transitioned from the nomadic to the agrarian, imaginaires were constructed to provide ideological buttresses for the new political order. Such an imaginaire revolved around a set of felicities, that is to say, supplementary imaginary worlds, that promised post-mortem rewards which compensated for worldly injustice. Collins takes as his paradigmatic case study the Pali Buddhist world, and in this case, the imaginaire constituted centres on nirvana. As working parts of this imaginaire, the various felicities provided an incentive for adhering to socially acceptable behavior, and thus helped maintain stability by compensating those who suffered the costs of the agrarian social arrangement.   Collins argues that similar systems of felicities could be found in other agrarian states. In a previous paper, I applied Collins's theory to Latinate Christianity, with surprising results. Collins’s theory was correct, in that Latinate Christianity did share a similar felicity structure; however, Latinate Christianity was also greatly preoccupied by Hell, and often contrasted felicities with infelicities. In Collins's schema, by contrast, there is little room for infelicities.   In this thesis, I intend to re-examine Collins’s argument for the Buddhist case, expanding his vision of the Buddhist imaginaire to include a set of infelicities and the structures they constitute. Thus, this study will compare infelicities from both the Buddhist imaginaire and the Latinate Christian imaginaire. A comparative study presents the potential to create a hypothetical structure of infelicities, that may be applicable to infelicities presented in religions outside of Buddhism.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Religious Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies


Radich, Michael