Department of History of Art and Archaeology & School of Arts

Professor Ashley Thompson

Key information

Department of History of Art and Archaeology Hiram W. Woodward Chair in Southeast Asian Art Centre of South East Asian Studies Academic Staff Centre of Buddhist Studies Member Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme Academic Lead, Research and Publications Sub-group Chair, Programme Board Member School of Arts Department Doctoral Studies Convenor
BA, Harvard; MA, Université de Paris 3; PhD, Université de Paris 8, SFHEA
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44 (0)20 7898 4130
Support hours
Thursdays, 3:00pm–5:00pm


I am a specialist in Southeast Asian Art Histories, with particular expertise on Cambodia. 

This research orientation began in my undergraduate years in the History and Literature Department at Harvard, where I wrote a final dissertation on American literature of the 'Vietnam' war, and during a junior year abroad in Paris, where I attended Hélène Cixous’s epic seminar and epic play, 'L’Histoire terrible mais inachevée de Norodom Sihanouk, roi du Cambodge.'

The experience set me on a path to Cambodia and Thailand where I spent ten years working in post-war reconstruction in the fields of education, art, archaeology and cultural heritage research and management – and many more, thus far unending years undertaking research on a wide range of Cambodian arts. For all of this I am indebted to the visionary mentoring of writer and feminist Hélène Cixous, historical anthropologist Ang Choulean and architect-statesman Vann Molyvann.

My work at SOAS is also informed by experience gained in a diversity of higher education settings - at Phnom Penh’s Royal University of Fine Arts, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Paris 8 and the University of Leeds.

I am currently leading a collaborative research project funded by the Getty Foundation’s Connecting Art Histories Scheme: Circumambulating Objects: on Paradigms of Restitution of Southeast Asian Art.

Inaugural Lecture

Research interests

Over the years I have maintained a sustained focus on premodern Cambodian arts and literatures, and complemented this with more punctual work on the contemporary period and the arts of the larger Southeast Asian region. My research is informed by deconstruction and psychoanalysis, and revolves around questions of memory, political and cultural transition, sexual difference and subjectivity.

Explicitly decolonizing critical perspectives play a role in more recent work. Objects of analysis include Hindu and Buddhist sculpture, cult or ritual practices and texts, as well as other forms of fine and performing arts.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Panggah Ardiyansyah Heritage as accumulated meaning: Transactions, appropriation and biographies of Hindu-Buddhist materials in pre-modern Indonesia
Udomluck Hoontrakul The Development of Political Economy and Social Formation of the Marginal Polities on the Salween River Basin, Northwestern Thailand During the first millennium CE to the mid-second millennium CE
Pipad Krajaejun Deconstructing the Historical Metanarrative of Thai Art and Archaeology: The Emergence of Artistic Styles in the Pre-Ayutthaya Period, or ‘Uthong Art,’ during the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries
Vera Mey Imaging and imagining critical regionalism in Southeast Asian modern art during and beyond the Bandung Spirit
Hoang Huong Duyen Nguyen Issues in the curation of Champa art in Vietnam: On stylistic chronology, museum identity and object authenticity
Alexx Salazar Reimagining Culture and Tradition through Cambodian Shadow Puppets: Imaginaries and Narratives of Value in an Era of Restoration
Sonetra Seng Beyond the Masterpiece: Function and Design of Divine Adornment in Angkorian Cambodia (9th-14th c.).
Mr Kulamitra David Zukas Revealing the Religious Landscape at Bhaja, Bedsa and Karle, Buddhist Rock-cut Monasteries


Contact Ashley