Ashley Thompson is a Lecturer in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies of the University of Leeds, and Directeur de Programme at the Collège international de philosophie, Paris. She is a specialist in Southeast Asian Cultural Histories, with particular expertise on Cambodia. A sustained focus on classical and pre-modern arts and literatures is complemented by more punctual work on the contemporary period. 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 Asian politico-cultural formations. Her work explores avenues for comparison of “Eastern” and “Western” metaphysical traditions, and the limits of the comparative endeavour.
Her research is informed by deconstruction and psychoanalysis, and revolves around questions of memory, political and cultural transition, sexual difference and subjectivity, particularly as revealed, or not, by language and textuality in the broadest sense. Post-colonial critical perspectives have also played a role in more recent work. Objects of analysis include Hindu and Buddhist sculpture, cult or ritual practices and texts, as well as other forms of fine and performing arts. Before taking up academic work in the West (France, the US, the UK), she spent ten years in Thailand and Cambodia working in post-war reconstruction in the fields of education, cultural heritage research and management.
She is currently involved in a Cambodian production of Hélène Cixous' epic play, The Terrible but Unfinished Story of Norodom Sihanouk King of Cambodia, which will tour Europe in 2011. Her monograph Engendering the Buddhist State: Reconstructions of Cambodian History is to appear with Routledge (Critical Buddhist Studies) in 2012.