Conference details


September 13th – 15th 2012, University College Cork

With 21 participants already confirmed from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland and the US, this conference is set to be a significant event in Buddhist and Southeast Asian studies. The conference programme is available here; a full set of abstracts is available here.

The recent discovery of the extraordinary life of ‘The Irish Buddhist’ U Dhammaloka (documented in a special issue of Contemporary Buddhism 11:2, December 2010 and here) has stimulated new avenues of research into numerous significant but neglected East-West and global Buddhist encounters.   This conference focuses on forgotten or under-represented Buddhist pioneers, their connections and collaborations, and the contribution of these individuals and networks to the construction of Buddhist modernities.

Casting South-East Asia as a ‘cross roads’ invites contributions on pioneer exchanges and connections not only between ‘the West’ and ‘Asia’ but also within Asia, from China, Korea and Japan through Southeast Asia to India and Ceylon. The period to be covered, broadly 1860-1960, is intended to include the earliest documented pioneer European [and e.g. Japanese] Buddhist practitioners of the colonial period whilst stopping short of the mass interest in Buddhism of the late 20th century. We are interested in any figures, groups or networks whose commitment to Asian Buddhist praxis in the colonial period contributed in some way to the emergence of modern global Buddhism and whose role was pioneering, rather than following a traditionally established path.  We are equally interested in networks of exchange and communication such as trade routes, monastic interrelationships, military ventures, cultural exchanges, missionary enterprises and imperialist and socialist (etc.) institutions and ideas which enabled Buddhists to interact in pioneering ways during this period.

Forgotten figures such as U Dhammaloka, despite their historical significance for these exchanges in colonial Asia, have long been obscured in conventional scholarly narratives which have presented a very small selection of ‘pioneer’ figures found respectable within today’s Western Buddhist lineages or canonised in Asian accounts. Recent discoveries overturning these entrenched narratives have been made possible in part by the new digitisation and indexing of colonial-era newspapers, travel books, directories, missionary reports and other obscure and disparate sources which can provide – often fragmentary – pointers to lost lives and events which may in the end be documented only through traditional archival research.  This conference aims to further this new and exciting field of research by bringing together scholars with a shared interest in global Buddhism and expertise in different periods and regions of Asia and the West.

We intend to produce a journal special issue or edited volume based on papers presented at the conference.

The conference will take place from Thursday afternoon 13th September to Saturday morning 15th September 2012 and is hosted by the Study of Religions Department, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland. The conference is timed so as to be compatible with that of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists in Dublin. Practical information is available here and the programme is available here. The conference is co-organised by Prof Brian Bocking and Dr Phibul Choompolpaisal (UCC Study of Religions Department) with an advisory committee comprising Dr Laurence Cox (NUIM, Ireland), Prof Alicia Turner (York University, Toronto), Dr Andrew Skilton (KCL, London) and Dr Kate Crosby (SOAS, London), in association with the 12-month postdoctoral research fellowship project ‘Continuities and Transitions in Early Modern Thai Buddhism’ at UCC supported by the Dhammakaya International Society of the United Kingdom.  The Conference itself has a far wider remit than Thailand, and papers in all regions are warmly welcomed.

Enquiries should be emailed to Prof Brian Bocking in Cork, email:  b.bocking [at]   or to Dr Phibul Choompolpaisal in Thailand, email:  phibulart [at] For technical issues with the website, please contact laurence.cox [AT]