Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture Series: Mapping the City of the Gods: Bangkok, Ethnicity, and the Galactic Polity

Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture Series: Mapping the City of the Gods: Bangkok, Ethnicity, and the Galactic Polity


Time: December 4, 6:00am (Vancouver) | 2:00-3:30pm (Oxford/London) | 9:00pm (Beijing/Taipei)

University of Oxford, Spalding Room (3rd floor), Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Pusey Lane, Oxford, OX1 2LE

All are welcome for tea and snacks at 3:30-4:00pm (in the Common Room in the basement)

The lecture will be in person and live-streamed via YouTube with simultaneous English and Mandarin channels.


Justin McDaniel’s lecture in English

Justin McDaniel’s lecture in Chinese

Abstract: Stanley Tambiah’s idea of the Galactic Polity, alongside previous ways of defining urban centers in Southeast Asia as Mueang, Mandala, or Nagara have been very useful in trying to understand the ritual, symbolic, and political ways of defining royal centers of power in the region. However, all-encompassing definitions always exclude as much as they include. This paper explores ways of understanding the founding and growth of the last Buddho-Brahmanic royal city of Southeast Asia — Bangkok. What and who gets excluded in the galactic polity and how does the ethnic history of the city help revisit the ways in which we understand the first 250 years of one of the world’s great cities.


About the speaker: Justin McDaniel

Justin McDaniel’s research foci include Lao, Thai, Pali and Sanskrit literature, art and architecture, and manuscript studies. His first book, Gathering Leaves and Lifting Words, won the Harry Benda Prize. His second book, The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magic Monk, won the Kahin Prize. His third book, Architects of Buddhist Leisure, was supported by grants from the NEH and Kyoto University. His recent books — Wayward Distractions: Studies in Thai Buddhism (National University of Singapore and Kyoto University Presses) and Cosmologies and Biologies: Siamese Illuminated Manuscripts (Holberton) are detailed studies of literature and art in Siam in the 18th and 19th centuries. He also has published edited volumes on Asian Manuscripts and Material Culture, Buddhist Biographies, Buddhist Art, Buddhist Ritual, Buddhist Literature. He has published over 100 articles and book reviews on a wide variety of subjects in Buddhist Studies, Material Culture, and Religious Studies. He also has forthcoming work on the study of Human Flourishing and the Discipline of Religious Studies and the state of Humanities education in the 21st century. He has received grants from the NEH, Mellon, Rockefeller, Fulbright, PACRIM, Luce, the SSRC, among others. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and fellow of Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies. He has won teaching and advising awards at Harvard University, Ohio University, the University of California, and the Ludwig Prize for Teaching at Penn. He was named one of the top ten most innovative professors in America by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2019 and his work on pedagogical methods have been featured on NPR, Huffington Post, CNN, Washington Post, and many other venues.


About the discussant: Edoardo Siani (Ca’Foscari University of Venice)

Edoardo Siani is Assistant Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at Ca’Foscari University of Venice. He writes about the relationship between Buddhist cosmology and politics in Thailand via long-term ethnographic explorations of practices including divination, political protest and royal ritual. Edoardo received a PhD in Anthropology and Sociology from SOAS (University of London), was Researcher and Assistant Professor at Kyoto University’s CSEAS, Research Associate at SOAS, and Adjunct Professor at Thammasat University. He has contributed to media outlets including BBC and The New York Times.


About the Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture Series: Launched in September, 2021, the Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture Series (印證佛學傑出學術系列講座) is a collaborative, multi-university partnership between Peking University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Inalco (Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales), Princeton University, Harvard University, and the University of British Columbia. The Lecture Series is established in honour of Venerable Cheng-yen 證嚴, founder of Tzu Chi, and her mentor Yinshun 印順 (1906–2005), with the goal of promoting topics in Buddhist Studies.


Click to download the poster