SOAS University of London

CALL FOR PAPERS: Emergence of Theravada Buddhism in Cambodia: Southeast Asian Perspectives

16 February 2015

CALL FOR PAPERS: ‘The Emergence of Theravada Buddhism in Cambodia: Southeast Asian Perspectives.’

DEADLINE: 15 March 2015.

The Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme at SOAS invites papers for a symposium entitled ‘The Emergence of Theravada Buddhism in Cambodia: Southeast Asian Perspectives’ on July 3 2015. 

Mainland Southeast Asia underwent major civilizational transitions when the Hindu-Mahayana Buddhist Angkorian Empire met its end over the 13th-15th centuries and Theravada Buddhism emerged in its wake. While Angkor remained a reference for the new states that developed across the mainland, Theravada Buddhism structured the cultural, social and political forms which continue to define the region. Given the importance of these changes, astonishingly little is understood about how it actually happened, notably in the Angkorian heartland itself.  By supporting interdisciplinary exchange on the Theravadin material heritage across the Southeast Asian region (including Sri Lanka) during this transitional period, the symposium aims to begin to redress this gap in our regional understandings.

Knowledge on the emergence of Theravada Buddhism in Cambodia is partially due to the nature of the transformation itself: marking an abrupt halt in the prolific stone temple construction, statuary production and epigraphic composition which had characterized the Angkorian Kingdom for more than four centuries, the early Cambodian Theravadin complex left relatively little easily accessible material evidence for its future study. This relative lack has been compounded by scholarly privileging of the spectacular accomplishments of Angkor since the beginning of modern scholarship in the colonial period. Times did change however, and it is time that the body of research on the early post-Angkorian period in the post-colonial era be collectively evaluated and pursued. Temples and stupas were built and rebuilt, statues were sculpted and retouched, texts were composed and recomposed, practices evolved and legends were born. Out of this work, the Cambodian state was given new life in and beyond Angkor, and, in such, confirmed the hold Theravada had across the region.

The dominant structuring of modern scholarship on the basis of national borders has further limited our understandings of the phenomenon at hand. Certain Theravadin forms and practices came to Cambodia from somewhere else at this time. From where? Why? And how? What can be discerned about and from the specificities of the Cambodian complex in relation to its Theravadin relatives? By bringing together scholars from across the region, and across disciplines, we aim to break new ground on early Cambodian Theravada, and, in turn, shed light on mainland developments as a whole.

For further information, contact:

Abstracts of 150-200 words, as well as questions and expressions of interest, should be sent to: sg74@soas.ac.uk and at50@soas.ac.uk.

Bursaries are available for selected applicants for travel and accommodation in London.