SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Professor Ashley Thompson

BA, Harvard; MA, Université de Paris 3; PhD, Université de Paris 8, SFHEA
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Publications


Ashley Thompson
School of Arts

Director of Doctoral Studies

Department of History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Hiram W. Woodward Chair in Southeast Asian Art

SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies

Academic Staff, Centre of South East Asian Studies

Centre of Buddhist Studies


The Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme

Academic Lead, Research and Publications Sub-group Chair, Programme Board Member

Professor Ashley Thompson
Email address:
+44 (0)20 7898 4130
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Academic Support Hours:
Thursdays 10:00am-11:00am


I am a specialist in Southeast Asian Cultural 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.

Inaugural Lecture

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Prof. Ashley Thompson - Double Realities: The Complex Lives of Ancient Khmer Statuary


Programmes Convened
Modules Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Alexx Salazar, Tradition, to preserve or innovate?: The Many Adaptations and Interpretations of Cambodian Shadow Puppets
  • Hoang Huong Duyen Nguyen, Issues in the curation of Champa art in Vietnam: On stylistic chronology, museum identity and object authenticity
  • Kulamitra David Zukas, Revealing the Religious Landscape at Bhaja, Bedsa and Karle, Buddhist Rock-cut Monasteries
  • Mariana Zegianini , The Global Portrait: Subject, Site and Temporality in Portraiture of the Long Seventeenth Century in China (working title)
  • Panggah Ardiyansyah, Heritage as accumulated meaning: Transactions, appropriation and biographies of Hindu-Buddhist materials in pre-modern Indonesia (working title)
  • 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
  • Sonetra Seng, Beyond the Masterpiece: Function and Design of Divine Adornment in Angkorian Cambodia (9th-14th c.).
  • 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
  • Vera Mey, Signs of a region: in search of the aesthetic imagination of Southeast Asia after 1948 (working title)

As Academic Lead of the Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme I also run a seminar designed to support students focusing on premodern Southeast Asian Art in the large Theory and Method in Art History module, and an Invited Speaker seminar series on Southeast Asian Hindu-Buddhist art to further enrich the SOAS research environment in this area.


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.


Authored Books

Thompson, Ashley (2016) Engendering the Buddhist State: Territory, Sovereignty and Sexual Difference in the Inventions of Angkor. Abingdon; New York, NY: Routledge.

Thompson, Ashley (2005) Calling the Souls: A Khmer Ritual Text. Phnom Penh: Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture.

Thompson, Ashley and Shapiro-Phim, Toni (1999) Dance in Cambodia. Kuala Lumpur; Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chouléan, Ang and Thompson, Ashley and Prenowitz, Eric (1995) Angkor, a Manual for the Past, Present, and the Future. Phnom Penh: ASPARA.


Thompson, Ashley (2013) 'Forgetting to Remember, Again: on Curatorial Practice and “Cambodian” Art in the Wake of Genocide'. Diacritics, (41) 2, pp 82-109.

Thompson, Ashley (2012) 'Il n’y a pas de hors-texte’: à propos du Language of the Gods in the World of Men'. Péninsule: etudes interdisciplinaires sur l'Asie du Sud-Est péninsulaire, (65), pp 245-258.

Thompson, Ashley (2012) 'On Sheldon Pollock’s The Language of the Gods in the World of Men'. Bryn Mawr Review of Comparative Literature, (10) 1.

Thompson, Ashley (2012) 'Writing Tongues'. Parallax, (18) 3, pp 1-8.

Thompson, Ashley (2010) 'Post-cosmopolitical Theories: Sexual Difference, Vernacularisation and Art After Angkor'. Transeuropéennes: International Journal of Contemporary Thought (Online).

Thompson, Ashley (2006) 'Terrible but Unfinished: Hélène Cixous’ Stories of History'. New Literary History, (37) 1, pp 197-214.

Thompson, Ashley (2006) 'D’une mémoire l’autre'. Labyrinthe, (23) 1, pp 15-26.

Thompson, Ashley (2004) 'Pilgrims to Angkor: A Buddhist ‘Cosmopolis’ in Southeast Asia?'. Bulletin of Students of the Department of Archaeology, Royal University of Fine Arts, Phnom Penh 3, pp 88-119.

Thompson, Ashley (2003) 'Par-delà les frontières : histoires de Kampuchea Krom'. Bulletin de l’Association d’Amitié Franco-Vietnamienne 46.

Thompson, Ashley (2003) 'Drawing Cambodia's Borders: Notes on modern Buddhist Temple Murals in Kampuchea Krom (Vietnam)'. Udaya, Journal of Khmer Studies, (4).

Thompson, Ashley (1993) 'Oh Cambodia! Poems from the Border'. New Literary History, (24) 3, pp 519 -544.

Edited Books or Journals

Thompson, Ashley, (ed.), (2022) Early Theravadin Cambodia: Perspectives from the History of Art and Archaeology. Singapore: NUS Press. [Forthcoming]

Berkwitz, Stephen C. and Thompson, Ashley, (eds.), (2022) Routledge Handbook of Theravāda Buddhism. London: Routledge.

Thompson, Ashley and Corey, Pamela, (eds.), (2014) 'On Modern and Contemporary Cambodian Art and Aesthetics' special issue of Udaya, Journal of Khmer Studies. Norfolk, CT: Friends of Khmer Culture (FOKCI).

Thompson, Ashley, (ed.), (2012) Beyond the Mother Tongue: Special issue of Parallax - Volume 18, Number 3. London: Taylor and Francis.

Book Chapters

Thompson, Ashley (2022) 'Early Theravadin Cambodia: Terms of Engagement'. In: Thompson, Ashley, (ed.), Early Theravadin Cambodia: Perspectives from the History of Art and Archaeology. Singapore: NUS Press. [Forthcoming]

Thompson, Ashley (2022) 'Icons: Standing out from the Narrative in Theravādin Art'. In: Berkwitz, Stephen C. and Thompson, Ashley, (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Theravada Buddhism. London: Routledge.

Thompson, Ashley (2021) 'Revenons, Revenants: Mémoires d’Angkor'. In: Thach, J. and Bourdonneau, E. and Mikaelian, G., (eds.), Temps et Temporalités khmères : de près, de loin, entre îles et péninsules. Bern: Peter Lang, pp 345 -375.

Thompson, Ashley (2021) 'Mainland Southeast Asia after Angkor: On the Legacies of Jayavarman VII'. In: Evans, D. and Hendrickson, M. and Stark, M., (eds.), The Angkorian World. London: Routledge. [Forthcoming]

Thompson, Ashley (2020) 'Anybody: Diasporic Subjectivities and the Figure of the “Historical” Buddha'. In: Flores, Patrick D. and Paracciani, L., (eds.), Interlaced Journeys: Diaspora and the Contemporary in Southeast Asian Art. Hong Kong: Osage Art Foundation, pp 117-131.

Thompson, Ashley (2020) 'Figuring the Buddha'. In: Mikaelian, G. and Thompson, Ashley and Sophearith, S., (eds.), Liber Amicorum: mélanges réunis en hommage à, in honor of, Ang Chouléan. Paris: Association Péninsule, Association des Amis de Yosothor, pp 211-237.

Thompson, Ashley (2017) 'Portrait of the Artist as a Buddhist Man'. In: Collins, Steven and Scober, Juliane, (eds.), Theravada Encounters with Modernity. Abingdon; New York, NY: Routledge, pp 118-136.

Thompson, Ashley (2017) 'Hiding the female sex: a sustained cultural dialogue between India and Southeast Asia'. In: Dallapiccola, Anna L. and Verghese, Anila, (eds.), India and Southeast Asia : cultural discourses. Mumbai: K. R. Cama Institute.

Thompson, Ashley (2017) '21 Emergenc(i)es: History and the Auto-Ethnographic Impulse in Contemporary Cambodian Art'. In: Wee, Low Sze and Flores, Patrick D., (eds.), Charting Thoughts: Essays on Art in Southeast Asia. Singapore: National Gallery of Singapore, pp 292-303.

Thompson, Ashley (2016) 'Contemporary Cambodian Buddhist Traditions: Seen from the Past'. In: Jerryson, Michael, (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Buddhism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Thompson, Ashley (2016) 'A Witness to Genocide: Vann Nath'. In: McDaniel, Justin Thomas and Rowe, Mark Michael and Samuels, Jeffrey, (eds.), Figures of Buddhist Modernity in Asia. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press.

Thompson, Ashley (2013) 'The Person of Vann Nath'. In: Chalm, Yvon, (ed.), Vann Nath tribute = Vann Nath hommage = Kea ra veak pheakdei chom puos Vann Nath. Phnom Penh: Cercle des Amis de Vann Nath.

Thompson, Ashley (2012) 'Mnemotechnical Politics: Rithy Panh’s Cinematic Archive and the Return of Cambodia’s Past'. In: Taylor, Nora A. and Ly, Boreth, (eds.), Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art: An Anthology. Ithaca, NY: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Cornell University, pp 225-240.

Thompson, Ashley (2011) 'In the Absence of the Buddha: “Aniconism” and the Contentions of Buddhist Art History'. In: Brown, Rebecca M. and Hutton, Deborah S., (eds.), A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, pp 398-420.

Thompson, Ashley (2011) 'Théories post-cosmopolitiques: différence sexuelle, vernacularisation et la fabrique de l’Asie du sud-est'. In: Berger, Anne and Varikas, Eleni, (eds.), Genre et postcolonialismes: Dialogues transcontinentaux. Paris: Éditions des Archives Contemporaines, pp 169-183.

Thompson, Ashley (2010) 'Sparrow'. In: Clement, Bruno and Segarra, Marta, (eds.), Hélène Cixous: Croire Rêver. Paris: CampagnePremière, pp 328-332.

Thompson, Ashley and Prenowitz, Eric (2010) 'Cambodia’s Trials: Theatre, Justice and History Unfinished'. In: Noszlopy, Laura and Cohen, Matthew, (eds.), Contemporary Southeast Asian Performance: Transnational Perspectives. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Thompson, Ashley (2008) 'Performative Realities: Nobody’s Possession'. In: Hansen, Anne Ruth and Ledgerwood, Judy, (eds.), Songs on the Edge of the Forest: Narrative and Problems of Meaning in the Work of David Chandler. Ithaca, NY: Asian Studies Press, Cornell University, pp 93-120.

Thompson, Ashley (2007) 'Angkor Revisited: the State of Statuary'. In: Mrazek, Jan and Morgan, Pitelka, (eds.), What's the Use of Art: Asian Visual and Material Culture in Context. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, pp 179-213.

Thompson, Ashley (2006) 'From the Linga to the Popil : an Art of Making Space'. In: Lobo, Wibke, (ed.), Angkor: Cambodia's Glory (In German). Bonn: Kunst und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

Thompson, Ashley (2006) 'Paul Mus vu de l’Ouest : à propos des cultes indiens et indigènes en Asie du Sud-est'. In: Goscha, Christopher, (ed.), Paul Mus et l'Asie (1902-1969): L'espace d'un regard. Paris: Indes savantes.

Thompson, Ashley (2006) 'Voir à Lire'. In: Segarra, Marta, (ed.), L’événement comme écriture: Lire Cixous et Derrida se lire. Paris: CampagnePremière, pp 327-341.

Thompson, Ashley (2006) 'Buddhism in Modern Cambodia: Rupture and Continuity'. In: Berkwitz, Stephen C., (ed.), Buddhism in Contemporary Societies. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, pp 129-167.

Thompson, Ashley (2006) 'Introduction'. Looking at Angkor (Bi-lingual Khmer-English Edition). Phnom Penh: Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture.

Thompson, Ashley (2004) '"The Suffering of Kings": Substitute Bodies, Healing and Justice in Cambodia'. In: Marston, John and Guthrie, Elizabeth, (eds.), History, Buddhism and New Religious Movements in Cambodia. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, pp 91-112.

Thompson, Ashley (2004) 'The Future of Cambodia’s Past: A Messianic Middle-Cambodian Royal Cult'. In: Marston, John and Guthrie, Elizabeth, (eds.), History, Buddhism and New Religious Movements in Cambodia. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, pp 13-39.

Thompson, Ashley (2002) 'Dancing on Death'. Qanāgat bibărṇ̊ : snāṭai silpa = Visions of the future : an exhibition of contemporary Cambodian art. Phnom Penh: Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture.

Thompson, Ashley (2000) 'Introductory Remarks Between the Lines: Writing Histories of Middle Cambodia'. In: Watson Andaya, Barbara, (ed.), Other Pasts: Women, Gender and History in Early Modern Southeast Asia. Honolulu, Hawaii: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Hawaii, pp 47-68.

Thompson, Ashley (2000) 'Entrer dans sa chambre à elle: Le Gars de Marina Tsvetaieva'. In: Setti, Nadia, (ed.), Marina Tsvetaeva, de poète à poètes. Actes du colloque Marina Tsvetaieva au Collège International de Philosophie, Travaux et documents, Université de Paris VIII, 2000.. Paris: Université de Paris.

Thompson, Ashley (1998) 'The Ancestral Cult in Transition: Reflections on Spatial Organization of Cambodia’s early Theravada Complex'. In: Klokke, Marijke J. and de Bruijn, Thomas, (eds.), Southeast Asian Archaeology: Proceedings of the 6th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists, 2-6 September, Leiden.. Hull: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies.

Thompson, Ashley (1997) 'Le Cambodge après Angkor'. In: Jessup, Helen L. and Zéphir, Thierry, (eds.), Angkor et dix siècles d’art khmer. Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux.

Conference Items

Thompson, Ashley (2001) 'An Oblique View of the Bayon.' In: Fifth International Symposium on the Preservation of Bayon, 2000, Phnom Penh.

Thompson, Ashley (2000) 'Lost and Found: the stupa, the four-faced Buddha and the seat of royal power in Middle Cambodia' In: Proceedings of the 7th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists, 1998, Berlin.

Book Reviews

Thompson, Ashley (2007) 'Review of Cambodian Buddhism: History and Practice by Ian Harris, University of Hawaii Press, 2005.'. Buddhist Studies Review, (24) 2, pp 250-256.

Thompson, Ashley (2006) 'Review of Art & Architecture of Cambodia by Helen Ibbitson Jessup, Thames and Hudson (World of Art Series), London. 2004.'. Orientations, (37) 3, pp 88-88.

Thompson, Ashley (2003) 'Review of The Journey of One Buddhist Nun by Sid Brown, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001.'. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, (34) 1, pp 185-189.


Thompson, Ashley (2011) 'Hélène Cixous’ The Terrible but Unfinished Story of Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia Cambodia. [Historical and Linguistic Director of Khmer language co-production by Phare Ponleu Selpak (Battambang) and the Théâtre du Soleil, Paris]'.

Thompson, Ashley (2010) 'Angkor Wat: from Temple to Text [Henry Moore Gallery, (Leeds)]'.

Ang Chouléan,, Eric-Prenowitz and Thompson, Ashley (2005) 'Calling the Souls [Reyum Gallery (Phnom Penh)'.


Thompson, Ashley (2010) 'Afterword'.

Thompson, Ashley (2005) 'Translation of 'Le principe de l'hospitalité.' Jaques Derrida interviewed by Dominique Dhombres for Le Monde, December 2, 1997.' Parallax, 11.

Thompson, Ashley (2003) 'Preface to Molyvann, Vann. 'Khmer Cities of the Modern Period''.

Thompson, Ashley and Choulean, Ang (1998) 'Help Save Cambodia's Past! Help Save Cambodia's Future! Preserve Angkorian Pottery and Kiln Sites'.

Thompson, Ashley and Choulean, Ang and Eng, Sun Kerya (1997) 'New Clues to Angkor's Secrets' Angkor Flight Magazine.

Thompson, Ashley (1996) 'The Calling of the Souls: a study of the Hau Bralin' Centre of Southeast Asian Studies Working Paper No. 98.


This list was last generated on Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 15:49 Europe/London.