Theravada Buddhism

Theravāda Buddhism is the designation for a religious tradition that is practiced with a great many local variations by more than 150 million people around the world. Today, the practice of this branch of Buddhism extends to Yunnan in Southwestern China, to parts of Vietnam, Indonesia, Nepal, among Dalits in India, and throughout Diaspora networks in Europe, North America, and Australia. In Buddhist communities in all of these places, local and modern articulations of ancient Buddhist tradition are changing rapidly in the context of globalization.

The study of Theravāda Buddhism relies on a textual tradition in Pali which is shared across much of mainland Southeast Asia and which, in its entirety, Collins has termed the Pāli Imaginaire. Indeed, Pāli in South and Southeast Asia is one of the languages singled out by Benedict Anderson as exemplifying, in his view, the kind of linguistic trans-local vehicle for imagining communities before modern nationalism. Since roughly the fifth century C.E., Pāli Buddhist inscriptions and texts deeply influenced the development of vernacular literatures and local, cultural practices in what are now the modern nations of mainland Southeast Asia, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

The Theravada Civilizations Project

Theravāda Buddhist civilizations have flourished for many centuries in what are now the countries of Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. This website serves the constituency of scholars engaged in the study of Theravada Buddhism. It provides information on research findings, teaching materials, bibliographies, audio-visual resources and offers opportunities in to engage in scholarly discussion.

It is intended to share with the general public some of the activities undertaken by the Theravāda Civilizations Project which has been developed by Juliane Schober at Arizona State University and Steven Collins at the University of Chicago with generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation and its Asia Responsive Grants Initiative.

The project supports collaborative exchanges among scholars based in the US, Canada, Britain, and Southeast Asia with the aim to undertake a thematic study of Theravāda civilizations in South and Southeast Asia. Begun in 2011, the project facilitates conferences (Toronto, 2012, Arizona 2013, and Chiang Mai in 2014); workshops for doctoral students and post-doctoral researchers; and the publication of edited research collections. The work of project scholars draws on approaches from the humanities and social sciences, including history, anthropology, ethnography and textual studies of Pali and vernacular literatures.

In order to bring the transdisciplinary study of Theravada civilizations to a broader community of scholars, the Theravada Civilizations Project initiated a professional group, the Theravada Studies Group (TSG), affiliated with the Association for Asian Studies.

The Theravada Studies Group

The TSG provides an academic forum on the study of Theravada Buddhist traditions through comparative and scholarly exchanges among social scientists and humanists who work on aspects of Theravada Buddhism in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Southwest China and globally though pilgrimage and diaspora networks.

The group  held its inaugural meeting at the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies in March 2013 in San Diego and meets annually in conjunction with the AAS.  Please check the annual AAS conference program for meetings-in- conjunction  to locate the time and place for the annual meeting of the Theravada Studies Group. You can also follow announcements on this site for this information.

Membership and Registration


Membership in the Theravada Studies Group is free. To access this site, members must register and establish a profile.


Visit the registration page to become a member.