Engendering the Buddhist State : Territory, Sovereignty and Sexual Difference in the Inventions of Angkor book cover
1st Edition

Engendering the Buddhist State
Territory, Sovereignty and Sexual Difference in the Inventions of Angkor

ISBN 9780367866471
Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge
220 Pages

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Book Description

Drawing from more than a decade of field and archival research, this monograph concerns Cambodian cultural history and historiography, with an ultimate aim of broadening and deepening bases for understanding the Cambodian Theravadin politico-cultural complex. The book takes the form of an interdisciplinary analysis of performative and representational strategies for constituting social collectivities, largely developed at Angkor.

The analysis involves extended close readings of a wide range of cultural artefacts including epigraphic and manuscript texts, sculpture and ritual practices. The author proposes a critical re-evaluation of dominant paradigms of Cambodian historiography in view of engendering new histories, or hybrid histories, which make room for previously absent perspectives and voices, while developing new theoretical tools engaging with and partially derived from "indigenous" narrative practices in the broadest sense. In this history-making process the historical event is shown to never be entirely separable from its aesthetic representation. Particular attention is paid to the roles of sexual difference in such (re)constructions of history.

The book presents a theory of power capable of accounting for the historical phenomena by which vernacular cultures appropriate, subvert and submit to cosmopolitan forces. It charts out a novel approach to the study of classical Southeast Asian materials, and is of interest to students and scholars of Asian Art, Religion and Philosophy, Buddhism and Southeast Asian History.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Textual Foundations: On Sdok Kak Thom 2. Sculptural Foundations: On the Linga and Yoni 3. Bodily Remains 4. The Fate of the Linga-Yoni Ensemble 5. Conclusion: Engendering the Cosmopolis

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Ashley Thompson is the Hiram W. Woodward Chair in Southeast Asian Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, UK. Her research explores the nexus of aesthetics and politics in Southeast Asia, with a thematic focus on questions of memory, historical consciousness, subjectivity and sexual difference.


"In this luminous, challenging, closely argued book, Ashley Thompson offers a new set of readings of early Cambodian history, connecting them in her final substantive chapter to certain ritual practices in Cambodia today... I am sure that such a second volume, when it appears, will be at least as welcome and rewarding as this long-awaited, passionate, and tightly woven book."

David Chandler, Monash University, Journal of Asian Studies


"All students of Cambodian history should read Engendering the Buddhist State: the depth of conversation on key topics that have constituted the canon of Cambodian studies will be deeply rewarding. Graduate students in particular should engage with the text as a possible pathway through the study of these key examples. Students of sovereignty and the gendering of culture will find well-studied cases pertinent to their field within this text, and practitioners of the methods of deconstruction may appreciate the application of their preferred approach to the novel material of Southeast Asian history."

Erik W Davis, Macalester College, Religion