(CfP) “Sustaining the Parasol: The Premodern State and Its Supports in Theravada Asia”

Jan Dressler's picture
Call for Papers
September 1, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Area Studies, Asian History / Studies, Political History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology, Southeast Asian History / Studies

Call for Papers (CfP)

Dear colleagues,

The 11th International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS11) will be hosted by Leiden University, Netherlands, from 16th-19th July, 2019. We cordially invite interested scholars to propose individual papers for the following panel on pre-modern Theravāda Buddhist states and societies.


Sustaining the Parasol: The Premodern State and Its Supports in Theravāda Asia

Panel Conveners: Jan R. Dressler (Hamburg University) & Matthew Reeder (Cornell University)

The parasol, as symbol of royal prestige and authority, requires steadfast human or inanimate reinforcement. While the figure of the ruler is the obvious focal point for any study of Theravāda kingship or the state, much can be gained by attending to its vast array of supports: institutional, personal, textual, sacred, symbolic. This panel examines these crucial, but often overlooked elements of the Theravāda state in South and Southeast Asia from its beginnings to the establishment of modern colonial regimes in the nineteenth century.

The “Theravāda Sphere” encompasses a vast geographical space from Cambodia to Burma, from Sri Lanka to Sipsongpanna. In this area, Theravāda thought and practice permeated material culture as well as peoples’ worldviews, social institutions, and structures of public administration, facilitating meaningful comparative inquiry. Hence this panel transcends the frame of arbitrarily-drawn regional boundaries and directs attention towards the development of polities in the Theravādan sphere.

Research on the premodern states and societies of this Theravāda Sphere still must confront various challenges, including fragmentary and widely dispersed sources in many languages, few reliable source editions and translations, and tenacious popular and scholarly prepossessions.

This panel is dedicated to source-based research and open to various methodological and theoretical approaches. In order to facilitate progress on such projects, it shall provide a platform for the friendly exchange of research results and field experience.

Fellow scholars are cordially invited to contribute papers which might address, but are not limited to, the following broad issues:


  • What administrative bodies and practices structured state power, what were their functions and capabilities, and how did these develop?

  • In what ways did trends in monastic practice, economic exchange, warfare, migration, and/or the environment affect power relations?

  • How did received tradition and individual agency shape, curtail, or enable institutional change?

  • How did religious or secular texts, artwork, or material culture represent authority, experience, or worldview? What were the conditions of production of such compositions?


In addition to providing the presenter’s name, institutional affiliation and email, paper proposals should include a paper title, a short abstract (ca. 250 words) and keywords. For further information concerning this panel and paper proposals, please contact the panel conveners:


Jan R. Dressler (PhD candidate, University of Hamburg)



Matthew Reeder (PhD candidate, Cornell University)



The deadline for paper proposals is September 1st, 2018.

For further information about ICAS11, please visit the conference website:


Or contact the ICAS Secretary: