Katherine Bowie

Position title: Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Anthropology

Email: kabowie@wisc.edu

Phone: 608-262-2132 or 2866

5462 Sewell Social Science Building

Katherine Bowie Interviewing Monk in Thailand


Katherine Bowie CV

Areas of Focus

Cultural anthropology, Southeast Asia, Thailand


Center for Southeast Asian Studies
Religious Studies
Global Studies
Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Development Studies


Katherine Bowie has conducted extensive research in Thailand for over 40 years. Combining archival research with oral histories, interviews and participant-observation, her work explores Thai peasant history, political economy, social movements, electoral politics, gender and, most recently, anthropological approaches to Theravada Buddhism.   Her most recent book, The Politics of Humor: The Vicissitudes of the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand (University of Wisconsin Press, 2017), considers the history of variations across three regions of Thailand in the interpretations and performances of this popular folkstory about the penultimate of the Buddha’s previous lives.  During the Covid Era, her earlier history in women’s voting rights led her to become interested in harems and later eunuchs across Asia.  Her current research focuses on northern Thailand’s most famous monk, Khruubaa Srivichai ( (1878-1938).

Professional Service

Professor Bowie was the President of the Association of Asian Studies (AAS) in 2017-2018, having served earlier as a member of the AAS program committee, Benda Prize committee, T/L/C Board, and Council of Committees.   In addition, she has served as President of the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs (MCAA), Eisenhower Fellow to Thailand, Fulbright Scholar, Book Review Editor for Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR), multiple years as President and/or member of the organizing committees for the Council of Thai Studies (COTS), and is currently a senior editor for the University of Wisconsin Press’ Southeast Asia Series. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she has served on various university committees. She has twice served as Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, receiving an International Institute Award for Outstanding Service. She has been a member of over 70 dissertation committees.


Professor Bowie teaches a range of classes from introductory courses in anthropology to graduate courses in anthropological theory. More specialized courses she teaches include Peoples and Cultures of Mainland Southeast Asia, Political Anthropology, Anthropology of the State, Anthropology of Capitalism, Historical Anthropology, Peasant Politics and more recently courses on Theravada Buddhism.


1988 Ph.D. University of Chicago (Anthropology): “Peasant Perspectives on the Political Economy of the Northern Thai Kingdom of Chiang Mai in the Nineteenth Century: Implications for the Understanding of Peasant Political Expression.”

1981 M.A. University of Chicago (Anthropology): In the Wake of the Lords: A Historical Perspective on the Role of Irrigation in the Political Economy of Northern Thailand

1972 B.A. With Distinction. Stanford University (Anthropology).

Select Publications

  • 2023 [Forthcoming]. “Resolving a Controversy: Dating the First Arrest of Khruba Srivichai, the Saint of Northern Thailand.” Journal of Siam Society.
  • 2022. “Eunuchs in Vietnam: What’s Missing.” South East Asia Research. 30(4):409-425.
  • 2022. “Eunuchs in Siam: Before, During and After the Reign of King Narai in Ayutthaya.” Journal of Siam Society. 110 (I):1-20.
  • 2022. “Funerals: Changing Funerary Practices.” In Routledge Handbook of Theravada Buddhism, edited by Stephen Berkwitz and Ashley Thompson.  London: Routledge. Pp. 194-206.
  • 2021. “A political archaeology of Theravada Buddhism: Unearthing the emotions of changing funerary practices in northern Thailand.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies.  52(3): 369 – 392.
  • 2018. “Palimpsests of the Past: Oral History and the Art of Pointillism.” Journal of Asian Studies 77/4 (November): 855–877.
  • 2018. “The Historical Vicissitudes of the Vessantara Jataka in Mainland Southeast Asia.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. 49/1(February): 34-62.
  • 2017. “Khruba Siwichai: The Charismatic Saint and the Northern Sangha.” In Charismatic Monks of Lanna Buddhism, edited by Paul Cohen.  NIAS and Silkworm Press.
  • 2017. Of Beggars and Buddhas: The Politics of Humor in the Vessantara Jataka in Thailand.  University of Wisconsin Press.
  • 2016. “ Jujaka as Trickster: The Comedic Monks of Northern Thailand.” Readings of the Vessantara Jataka, edited by Steven Collins. Columbia University Press. Pp. 100-121.
  • 2016. “A Mat-Weaving Co-operative and a Military Coup: The Challenges of Fieldwork in the 1970s in Thailand.” In The Politics of Scholarship and Trans-border Engagement in Mainland Southeast Asia: Festschrift in honor of Ajarn Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, edited by Oscar Salemink with Patcharin Lapanun, Malee Sitthikriengkrai, Benjapron Deekhuntod.  Silkworm Press. Pp. 65-90.
  • 2014. “Buddhism and Militarism in Northern Thailand: Solving the Puzzle of the Saint Khruubaa Srivichai.” Journal of Asian Studies. 73/3(August):711-732.
  • 2014. “The Saint with Indra’s Sword: Kruubaa Srivichai and Buddhist Millenarianism in Northern Thailand.” Comparative Studies in Society and History. 56/3 (July).
  • 2011. “Polluted Identities: Ethnic Diversity and the Constitution of Northern Thai Beliefs on Gender.” In Southeast Asian Historiography, Unravelling the Myths: Essays in honour of Barend Jan Terweil. Edited by Volker Grabowsky. River Books Press. Pp. 112-127.
  • 2010. “Women’s Suffrage in Thailand: A Southeast Asian Historiographical Challenge.” Comparative Studies in Society and History. Volume 52 /4 (December): 708 -741.
  • 2008. “Vote Buying and Village Outrage in an Election in Northern Thailand: Recent Legal Reforms in Historical Context.” Journal of Asian Studies. 67/2 (May):469-511.
  • 2008. “Standing in the Shadows: Of Matrilocality and the Role of Women in a Village Election in Northern Thailand.” American Ethnologist. 35/1: 136-153.
  • 1998. “The Alchemy of Charity: Of Class and Buddhism in Northern Thailand.” American Anthropologist. 100/2: 469-481.
  • 1998. Voices from the Thai Countryside: The Necklace and Other Short Stories of Samruam Singh. Revised and expanded edition. Edited and translated by Katherine A. Bowie. Madison, Wisconsin: Center of Southeast Asia Publication Series. Monograph #17. (Second reprint 2002; print-on-demand, University of Wisconsin Press, 2007).
  • 1997. Rituals of National Loyalty: An Anthropology of the State and the Village Scout Movement in Thailand. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • 1996. “Slavery in Nineteenth Century Northern Thailand: Archival Anecdotes and Village Voices.” In State Power and Culture in Thailand, E. Paul Durrenberger, eds. Yale University Southeast Asia Monograph #44. Pp. 100-138.
  • 1993. “Cloth and the Fabric of Northern Thai Society in the Nineteenth Century: From Peasants in Cotton to Lords in Silks.” American Ethnologist, 20/1 (February): 138-158.
  • 1992. “Unraveling the Myth of the Subsistence Economy: The Case of Textile Production in Nineteenth Century Northern Thailand.” Journal of Asian Studies. 51/4 (November): 797-823.