Iselin Frydenlund

Associate Professor, Norwegian School of Theology

Iselin Frydenlund
Iselin Frydenlund left PRIO in 2018. The information on this page is kept for historical reasons. Iselin Frydenlund is an External Associate at PRIO.

Research Interests

Her research interests include the role of religion in war and peace, religion and violence, suicide terrorism, interreligious dialogue in its various forms, and freedom of religion or belief. She works specifically on Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, currently focusing on Buddhist-Muslim relations. She is particularly interested in fieldwork methodology in the study of religion in its social context, as well as fieldwork ethics. Since 2013 she has been working together with the Buddhist Federation of Norway and monastic organizations in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Bangladesh, on religious minority rights in Buddhist majority states. She has also been Research Fellow at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo, leading a project on legal regulation of religion in Myanmar.


Iselin Frydenlund is Associate Professor in Religious Studies at MF Norwegian School of Theology and Director of the MF Centre for the Advanced Study of Religion (MF CASR). Until 2015 she was a senior researcher at PRIO and has since been a PRIO External Affiliate.

See also her webpage at MF.


PRIO started tracking events online in 2007. This listing is not complete. Past events may be mentioned in our news archive.



Dissertations and monographs

Doctoral Dissertation:

Frydenlund, Iselin (2011): “Canonical ambiguity and differential practices: Buddhist monks in wartime Sri Lanka”, Doctoral Dissertation, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oslo, Oslo (Monograph).

Cand. Philol thesis:

Frydenlund, Iselin (2003) “Kataragama in a time of national crisis. Diversity and exclusion in a sacred place in Sri Lanka”, University of Oslo.

Refereed journal articles

Frydenlund, Iselin (2013): “Religion, civility and conflict – towards a concept of critical civility’”, Studies in interreligious dialogue (23:1).

Frydenlund, Iselin (2004): «Buddhaer og bazukaer: motstridende bilder av vold og buddhisme på Sri Lanka», Din. Tidsskrift For Religion og Kultur.

Book chapters

Frydenlund, Iselin (forthcoming): ““The Invention of Buddhist Pacifism?”, in (eds) Huesken, Thikonov, Havnevik & Teeuwen, Buddhism and modernity.

Frydenlund, Iselin (forthcoming): “Particularist goals through universalist means: the political paradoxes of Buddhist revivalism in Sri Lanka” in ed. Kawanami, Hiroko: Buddhism and the political process.

Frydenlund, Iselin (2015) “’Operation dharma’: the Sri Lankan Army as an instrument of Buddhist nationalism”, in Military chaplaincy in a pluralist age, eds Torkel Brekke and Vladimir Thikonov. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Frydenlund, Iselin (2013) "The Protection of Dharma and Dharma as Protection: Buddhism and Security across Asia", in The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Security, eds Chris Seiple, Dennis R. Hoover, and Pauletta Otis. London & New York: Routledge.

Frydenlund, Iselin (2012) "Canonical ambiguity and differential practices: Buddhism and militarism in contemporary Sri Lanka", in Violent Buddhism: Buddhism and Militarism in Asia in the Twentieth Century, eds Torkel Brekke and Vladimir Thikonov. New York: Routledge.

Frydenlund, Iselin (2005): ”Hør Her! Du som er fra Norge. Feltarbeidserfaringer fra et konfliktfylt Sri Lanka”. I: Kulturvitenskap i felt. Metodiske og pedagogiske erfaringer, Høyskoleforlaget, p.163-183 (on fieldwork in conflict areas and fieldwork ethics.

Publications in non-refereed journals

Frydenlund, Iselin (2004): ”Krig og buddhisme på Sri Lanka – en motsetning?”, PACEM Militært tidsskrift for etisk og teologisk refleksjon 7:2.

Frydenlund, Iselin (2001) «Kataragama: der et splittet Sri Lanka møtes», Tredjeverdenmagasinet X.


Frydenlund, Iselin (2014): Engaging with religion in peacebuilding: opportunities and pitfalls. PRIO report (2014), commissioned by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Frydenlund, Iselin (2005): The Sangha and its relations to the Peace Process in Sri Lanka. Oslo: Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO Report 2/2005).

Op.eds and media papers

Frydenlund, Iselin (22.03.2015) "Den sekulære selvmordsbomberen", op. ed. Dagbladet.

Frydenlund, Iselin (11.04.2014) “Ekspansiv humaniora” (on the role of the humanities), op.ed. Morgenbladet.

Frydenlund, Iselin, Anne Stensvold og Cecilie Endresen (19.01.2012) ”Et vitenskapelig studium av religion” («A scientific study of religion»), op.ed, Aftenposten.

Frydenlund, Iselin & Wenche Hauge (02.04. 2004) ”Valg i et fragmentert Sri Lanka”, Bergens Tidende.


2014 “’I am proud not to vote!’ Political rights, legal pluralism and gender in Buddhist Sri Lanka”, International Law conference on “Human Rights and Legal Pluralism in Theory and Practice”, UiO.

2014 “Protecting Buddhism through Law”, joint public lecture with Prof. Gerhard van der Schyff (Tilburg) on Legal Pluralism and Human Rights, Faculty of Law, UiO.

2014 “Buddhist radicalism, religious violence and democratization in Myanmar”, public seminar at Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, UiO. 22. September.

2014 “Religion and law in Sri Lanka: the legal turn of Buddhist nationalism”, Conference on “Buddhism and Social Justice (NWO sponsored VICI project), led by Prof. J Silk, 23.-25. April.

2014 “A comparative note on religious dialogue”, Conference on “Religious minorities in Buddhist majority states”, University of Oxford, UK, 15.-16. March

2013 “Religion, civility and conflict – towards a concept of “critical civility”, 6th Annual Conference of the International Research Network on Religion and Democracy (IRNRD), Notre Dame University, Beirut, Lebanon, 11-12 December.

2013 “Pacifism as a modern Buddhist discourse?”, paper presented at the “Buddhist modernist conference” at UiO/IKOS, funded by PLUREL, 3-4 December.

2013 "Militant Buddhism: one the rise in Asia?", The Department of Ethnography, Museum of Cultural History, UiO.

2013 “’Operation dharma’: the Sri Lankan Army as an instrument of Buddhist nationalism”, paper presented at the PluRel conference Military chaplaincy in a pluralist age, UiO. 18-19 May.

2012 “Talk the Talk or Walk the Walk? Religious Leaders in Peacebuilding”, international PRIO conference.

2012 “Bruk av wiki i studentundervisning. Noen erfaringer fra grasrota”, Lecture at Department of Educational Research, Faculty of Educational Sciences, UiO.

List of popular science and user oriented dissemination (select)

2012 “When a pacifist religion goes to war: the role of religion in times of violent conflict”, at the Comprehensive Approach Seminar, Religion and Conflicts, NATO: Joint Warfare Centre (JWC), Stavanger, Norway.

2011 ”Public meeting on religion, war and reconciliation”, organized by The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights and the University of Tromsø, Tromsø.

2011 "Bundet av fred - Norges rolle på Sri Lanka". Public debate on the role of Norway in Sri Lanka’s peace process, Faculty of Social Sciences, UiO.

2011 22. juli, ”Doktoren svarer: hvorfor støttet munker på Sri Lanka vold?”, Morgenbladet (interview).

Frydenlund, Iselin (7 December 2011) “Religion, civility and conflict: towards a concept of 'critical civility'”, blog entry at the PluRel blog, UiO.

2011 “The Island of Dharma: Sri Lanka as sacred land”, public lecture, Tamil Student Organization, NTNU.

2009 “Kataragama – a sacred place for reconciliation? Pilgrims in conflict-ridden Sri Lanka”, part of Exhibition program, Museum of Cultural History, UiO.

2008 “Celebration of Sri Lanka’s National Day”, national television, NRK.

2005 – 2014 Several radio interviews, National radio (NRK, Dagnsytt Atten), and concerning the Sri Lanka peace process, Buddhism and violence and Buddhist-Muslim tensions in South and Southeast Asia.

All Publications

Book Chapter

Frydenlund, Iselin (2017) "Buddhism has Made Asia Mild" : The Modernist Construction of Buddhism as Pacifism, in Havnevik, Hanna; Ute Hüsken; Mark Teeuwen; Vladimir Tikhonov; & Koen Wellens, eds, Buddhist Modernities: Re-inventing Tradition in the Globalizing Modern World. Abingdon: Routledge (204–222).
Frydenlund, Iselin (2016) 'Operation Dhamma': The Sri Lankan Armed Forces as an Instrument of Buddhist Nationalism, in Tikhonov, Vladimir; & Torkel Brekke, eds, Military Chaplaincy in an Era of Religious Pluralism: Military–Religious Nexus in Asia, Europe, and USA. New Delhi: Oxford University Press (81–103).
Frydenlund, Iselin (2016) Particularist Goals through Universalist Means: The Political Paradoxes of Buddhist Revivalism in Sri Lanka, in Hiroko Kawanami, ed., Buddhism and the Political Process. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (97–120).

Non-refereed Journal Article

Frydenlund, Iselin (2004) Krig og buddhisme på Sri Lanka - en motsetning? [War and Buddhism in Sri Lanka - a contradiction?], PACEM: Militært Tidsskrift for etisk og teologisk refleksjon 7(2): 137–142.
Frydenlund, Iselin (2001) Kataragama: der et splittet Sri Lanka møtes, Verdensmagasinet X(4).

Popular Article

Frydenlund, Iselin (2015) Buddhismen som demokratisk kraft [Buddhism as a democratic force], Aftenposten, 4 October.
Frydenlund, Iselin & Wenche Iren Hauge (2004) Valg i et fragmentert Sri Lanka [Elections in a Fragmented Sri Lanka], Bergens Tidende, 2 April.

PRIO Report

Frydenlund, Iselin (2005) The Sangha and its Relation to the Peace Process in Sri Lanka, PRIO Report, 2. Oslo: PRIO.

Master Thesis

Frydenlund, Iselin (2003) Kataragama in a Time of National Crisis. Diversity and Exclusion in a sacred Place in Sri Lanka. MA thesis, Supervisors: Per Kværne, UiO; Henrik Syse, PRIO (completed September 2003), University of Oslo, Oslo.

Conference Paper

Frydenlund, Iselin (2015) Conflicting Notions of Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka, presented at Religious violence in South(East) Asia: domestic and transnational drivers of intolerance against Muslim minorities, Amsterdam, 15th June 2015.
Frydenlund, Iselin (2015) Religion in Peacebuilding – Possibilities and Pitfalls, presented at International Summer School, Oslo, 8th July 2015.
Frydenlund, Iselin (2001) Why don't they shoot each other? Kataragama: Religious co-existence in Sri Lanka in a time of war, presented at the Biannual conference of the Nordic Association for South Asian Studies (NASA), Voss, 1 January.

Report - External Series

Frydenlund, Iselin (2015) The rise of Buddhist-Muslim conflict in Asia and possibilities for transformation, NOREF Policy Brief. Oslo: NOREF.

Blog Posts

Myanmar: What now for Women and Minorities?

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund on Thursday, 17 December 2015

Will Aung San Suu Kyi dare to engage in a direct confrontation with religious nationalism and insist that the new parliament reconsider Myanmar’s laws on
 race and religion? Doing so could cost her dearly. Sexual violence Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has been in a continuous state of civil war ... Read more »

Are Myanmar's Monks Hindering Democratization?

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund on Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The upcoming general elections in Myanmar raise the question of religion’s role in democratisation processes. Previously Buddhism has been an important force in favour of democracy, but in the 2015 election campaign strong Buddhist forces are supporting the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). This is their democratic right, ... Read more »

Endangered Co-Existence: Buddhist-Muslim Friction in Asia

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund on Friday, 26 June 2015

Disputes about everything from holy sites to ritual animal slaughter and compulsory family planning are causing dangerous tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in countries such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Friction between Buddhists and Muslims in Southeast Asia is putting pressure on a centuries-long tradition of religious co-existence, tolerance and ... Read more »

The Buddhist Face of Peace: Buddhist Peace Initiatives in Times of Religious Intolerance

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund & Susan Hayward on Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Buddhist radicalism is on the rise in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Buddhist anti-Muslim rhetoric, violence against Muslim minorities and hate speech against UN officials are now global media sensations. Less known is the growing number of religious peace initiatives, by both Muslims and Buddhists, to address the situation. ... Read more »

The Secular Suicide Bomber

Posted by Iselin Frydenlund on Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Is the all-consuming focus on Islam leading us to ignore the fact that suicide attacks have also been carried out by Christian, Hindu and secular martyrs? There can be no doubt that violent actions conducted in the name of Islam constitute a threat to state and individual security not only ... Read more »

Related pages