Back to Lectures

Theravāda Buddhist Constructs: Introducing Two New Volumes | A Talk by Ashley Thompson, Samerchai Poolsuwan, Katherine Bowie and Gregory Kourilsky

About this lecture

Early Theravādin Cambodia: Perspectives from Art and Archaeology (NUS Press) and The Routledge Handbook of Theravāda Buddhism are two new volumes seeking to set out new frontiers for exploration of Theravāda worlds.  As editor of the former and co-editor of the latter, Ashley Thompson will provide an overview of each, highlighting editorial strategies and challenges  underpinning the collective works. She will also present elements of her own contributions to the volumes tracking relations between temporally and geographically disparate mainland Southeast Asian monumental contexts of the second millennium, from Angkor to Pagan to Sukhothai. Samerchai Poolsuwan will draw from his contributions to both volumes exploring and extending Hiram Woodward’s concept of ‘Ariya Buddhism’ evidenced in premodern murals and sculptures from central Burma and western Thailand. With Katherine Bowie and Gregory Kourilsky we will turn to questions of the social raised in their respective contributions to the Handbook.  Bowie will consider the evolution of Thai funerary practices as these express social divisions and highly localized understandings of death. Kourilsky will conclude in exploring what may be seen as a paradox at the heart of Theravāda societies: while remarkable value is placed on devotion towards one’s parents in explicitly Buddhist terms, the notion of filial piety is not highlighted in the authoritative texts of the Mahāvihāra and indeed seems to run counter to both the central ethic of karma and the foundational act of renunciation of family ties performed by the Buddha and monastics in his wake.

About the speaker

Prof Ashley Thompson is Hiram W Woodward Chair of Southeast Asian Art at SOAS University of London. Her research focuses on the premodern arts and literatures of Southeast Asia, with a particular emphasis on Cambodia. She is currently completing a monograph titled “After Angkor: The Work of Buddhist Art.”

Prof Samerchai Poolsuwan is the Professor of Anthropology at Thammasat University, Thailand, and holds a doctorate degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His current research, focusing on the Buddhist iconography in the Theravādin context of Southeast Asia, has yielded a number of publications on exploration of the Pagan-period and the early-Thai Buddhist arts.

Prof Katherine Bowie is a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Anthropology at the Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has conducted research in Thailand for over 40 years. Her recent research focuses on Theravada Buddhism in Thailand, and she has currently completed a book manuscript on the Vessantara Jataka, entitled “The Politics of Humor: the Vicissitudes of the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand

Assoc Prof Gregory Kourilsky is an associate professor at the École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO). He received his PhD in Religious Anthropology and History of Religions at the École pratique des hautes études (EPHE), Paris. He specializes in Thai-Lao Buddhism, but also occasionally works on Cambodia, Burma, and Southwest China. His research particularly focuses on the ways Buddhist populations in Mainland Southeast Asia have maintained their religious and cultural identity despite the intrusion of nonindigenous doctrines, ranging from Indian classical scriptures to modern Western law.


Saturday, 16 July 2022 at 14:00


Lecture Room, 4/Floor, The Siam Society


Free of charge


For more information, please contact

Tel. 02-661-6470-3 ext. 203
Or email to

Please book your seat(s) in advance by emailing or phoning your booking to the Society.

More upcoming lectures