Roads Taken and Not Taken in the Work of Michael Vickery (1931-2017). A Talk by Ashley Thompson


A passage from 2/K.125 reproduced in Michael Vickery, ‘The 2/K.125 Fragment, a Lost Chronicle of Ayutthaya’, Journal of the Siam Society, Vol. LXV, 1, January 1977: 30. [Otherwise known as the Wachirayan Chronicle, 222 2/K.104; see Winai Pongsripian 2012.]


Michael Vickery’s œuvre attests to an exceptional, sustained commitment to revising histories of Southeast Asia – those established by his scholarly predecessors and contemporaries, as well as his own. This talk will take as its point of departure one of his last revisitations, a yet-to-be published collection of revised essays, the bulk of which first appeared in the Journal of the Siam Society. Comprising work spanning more than four decades, the volume reveals the construction of a steadfast vision of the shared history of Siam and Cambodia in the wake of the Angkorian empire, as of the historian’s disciplinary task. If contemporary scholars are indebted to Michael’s dogged challenge of the biases of histories rooted in 20th-century geo-political-academic enclaves, pitting Thai against Khmer, as to his meticulous inter-textual analyses, through which he managed seemingly against all odds to pinpoint significant historical events, people and places, in Michael’s spirit, so to speak, we must also do what he did not do. What does it mean for historians of post-Angkorian Siam and Cambodia today, I will ask in Michael’s turn, to ‘turn [… our] attention to the study of society and its internal dynamics’? What lies at the end of the road he has led us down?

Prof. Dr. Ashley Thompson is Hiram W. Woodward Chair in Southeast Asian Art, SOAS University of London. She is a specialist of Cambodian cultural history, with a focus on classical and pre-modern arts and literatures. Objects of analysis include Hindu and Buddhist sculpture, ritual practices and texts, as well as other forms of fine and performing arts. The Cambodian case is informed by research on the larger Asian context, most notably Southeast and South Asian cultural histories, with a view to theorising politico-cultural formations. Recent publications include Engendering Cambodia: Territory, Sovereignty and Sexual Difference in the Inventions of Angkor, Routledge Critical Buddhist Studies, 2016; and ‘Hiding the female sex: a sustained cultural dialogue between India and Southeast Asia,’ in A. Dallapiccola and A. Verghese, eds., India and Southeast Asia: Cultural Discourses, KR Cama Institute, 2017.

Date: Thursday, 20 September 2018
Time: 7.00 p.m.
Place: The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Rd, Sukhumvit 21

Non-members donation: B200. Siam Society members, members’ spouses and children, and all students showing valid student ID cards are admitted free of charge. For more information, please contact Khun Arunsri or

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The Siam Society is deeply grateful to the James H.W. Thompson Foundation for its generous support of the 2018-2019 Lecture Series.