Anne M. Blackburn

Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities


Anne Blackburn was first drawn to the study of Buddhism at Swarthmore College thanks to Donald Swearer, a scholar of Northern Thai Buddhism who developed innovative analytical perspectives on Buddhist history working across the domains of Thai Buddhist historiography, politics, Buddhist material culture, and Buddha biography. She received further training as an historian of religions at the University of Chicago, mentored by Frank Reynolds in a program shaped by historical sociology and hermeneutics. Her secondary supervisor at Chicago, Steven Collins, conducted research in Buddhist Studies and South Asian Studies, working with great originality at the intersection of historical sociology, philosophy, and the study of Buddhist literature in Pali. Studying with Charles Hallisey and P.B. Meegaskumbura introduced Blackburn to the rich history of Sinhala Buddhist literature and historiography, as well as approaches to South Asian literary vernaculars.

Research Focus

In her research, Anne Blackburn works at the intersection of Buddhist institutional history, political economy, intellectual history, and literature. She focuses on intellectual-political centers in what is now Sri Lanka (formerly Lanka) during the 2nd millennium A.D., locations in what are now Burma,Thailand, and India, and the circulatory processes that shaped these connections.

Blackburn’s latest book, Buddhist-inflected Sovereignties Across the Indian Ocean: A Pali Arena, 1200-1550 (supported by an ACLS fellowship), will be published by the University of Hawai’i Press in Fall 2023. Past publications include Buddhist Learning and Textual Practice in Eighteenth-Century Lankan Monastic Culture (Princeton, 2001), Locations of Buddhism: Colonialism and Modernity in Sri Lanka (Chicago, 2010), "Buddhist Connections in the Indian Ocean" (JESHO, 2015), and "Buddhist Technologies of Statecraft  and Millennial Moments," (History and Theory, 2017).



  • academic article
    • Buddhist Technologies of Statecraft and Millennial Moments. History and Theory 56, no. 1 (March 2017), 71-79
    • Buddhist Connections in the Indian Ocean: Changes in Monastic Mobility, 1000-1500. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 58 (2015), 287-266
    • Ceylonese Buddhism in Colonial Singapore: New Ritual Spaces Specialists, 1895-1935.  ARI Working Paper Series.  2012
    • Writing Buddhist Histories from Landscape and Architecture: Sukhothai and Chiang Mai.  Buddhist Studies Review.  24:192-225. 2007
    • Notes on Sri Lankan Temple Manuscript Collections.  Journal of the Pali Text Society.  27:1-59.2002
    • Looking for the Vinaya: Monastic Discipline in the Practical Canons of the Theravada.  Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies.  22:255-289. 1999
    • Magic in the Monastery: Textual Practice and Monastic Identity in Sri Lanka.  History of Religions.  38:354-372. 1999
  • books
  • chapter
    • "Buddhist Networks in the Indian Ocean: Trans-regional Strategies & Affiliations." In Belonging Across the Bay of Bengal: Religious Rites, Colonial Migrations, National Rights, edited by Michael Laffan. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.
    • “Sīhaḷa Saṅgha and Laṅkā in Later Premodern Southeast Asia," in Buddhist Dynamics in Premodern and Early MOdern Southeast Asia, ed. D. Christian Lammerts. Singapore: Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, 2015.
    • Lineage, Inheritance, and Belonging: Expressions of Monastic Affiliation from Lanka.  How Theravada is the Theravada?: Exploring Buddhist Identities. 2012
    • 'Buddhist Revival' and the 'Work of Culture' in Sri Lanka, Past and Present.  The Anthropologist and the Native: Essays for Gananath Obeyesekere. London: Anthem Press. 221-246. 2011
    • Localizing Lineage: Importing Higher Ordination in Theravadin South and Southeast Asia. Constituting Communities: Theravada Buddhism and the Religious Cultures of South and Southeast Asia. Albany: State University of New York Press. 2003
    • Serendipity and Sadness.  Excursions and explorations : cultural encounters between Sri Lanka and the United States. Colombo. 2002

In the news

ASIAN Courses - Fall 2024