Henry Luce Foundation Grant Spotlight: The Theravada Civilizations ProjectReturn to Announcements

By Lora Kile on June 9th, 2016

In 2009 ASU's Juliane Schober and Steve Collins, a scholar of Pali and Sanskrit at theUniversity of Chicago, developed the idea for a project that would bring together scholars from differentS Collins North Thailand Fieldtrip_0889fields and institutions “to formulate a comparative and multidisciplinary understanding of Theravada Buddhism.” In 2010, Arizona State University received a three-year grant from the Foundation’s Asia Program to support the “Theravada Civilizations Project.”

The centerpiece of the project has been a series of annual conferences, hosted by the University of Toronto (2012), Arizona State University (2013), and the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient center in Chiang Mai, Thailand (2014).This grant was extended in 2015 for another three years allowing for conferences at King's College, London  and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London (2016) and Arizona State University (2016). The conferences have brought together scholars of history, anthropology, religious studies, language, literature and visual arts from institutions in North America, Asia, and Europe. In the process, they have revitalized the field.

Steve Collins and Juliane in Chiang MaiThe annual conferences have also fostered an active network of scholars who are interested in working in collaborative and interdisciplinary ways. The project’s website, theravadaciv.org, now has about 300 subscribers globally. It offers a digital gathering place, featuring bibliographies, discussion forums, and information on funding opportunities and relevant events. Schober explains: “most of us are the only experts in our field at our institutions. Having conversation partners is extremely productive and vital to the field.”

Another key component of the project has been a series of dissertation workshops for doctoral students, held concurrently with the main conferences. These workshops enable the scholars to get feedback from project scholars, to establish a large network of peers, and to seeSteve, Ashley and Anne Tempe 2016their work in an international and multidisciplinary context early in their careers.

This story is excerpted from the Henry Luce Foundation website. To read more, please go to