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Anne M. Blackburn


photo of Anne M. Blackburn

Rockefeller Hall, Room 346

Educational Background

  • Ph.D. in History of Religions, University of Chicago, Divinity School 1996
  • M.A. in Religious Studies, University of Chicago, Divinity School 1990
  • B.A. in Asian History and Religion (Special Major), Swarthmore College 1988



    Blackburn was trained to study Buddhism as an historian of religions (in a program greatly influenced by approaches to historical sociology and hermeneutics) rather than as a philologist. Her secondary supervisor worked in Buddhist Studies and South Asian Studies and was (unusually for the field at that time) insistent that the scholars working on Buddhist texts attend to their literary features, and the contexts for their composition and reception. This combination of influences allows her to approach Buddhist texts with attention to the contexts in which they were composed and used. It has also led her to substantial work in the history of devotional practices and intellectual history, topics first broached in undergraduate days at Swarthmore College. Blackburn approaches this work with the assumption that the history of Buddhist texts and practices should not be divorced from the history of other forms of life with which they are closely connected, and through which they have been constituted.


    • Asian Studies
    • Religious Studies Program

    Graduate Fields

    • Asian Literature, Religion, and Culture
    • Asian Studies


    Anne Blackburn is an historian of Buddhism, focusing on Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Buddhist networks with Southeast Asia and the South Asian mainland. She has a special interest in monastic culture, and works at the intersection of social and intellectual history with attention to connections between Buddhist devotional practice, education and textual culture, and lay patronage. Her first two books (2001 & under review) examine Buddhist monastic institutions and social projects in Sri Lanka during the 18th and 19th centuries. These projects study Buddhist activities partly in relation to problems of modernity and colonialism in southern Asia. The next book project (and a related article now in print) turn more towards medieval mainland Southeast Asian contexts where Sri Lankan monastic lines entered local ritual and political life.