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Elizabeth Cecil

Visiting researcher

Dr. E.A. Cecil
+31 71 527 2603

Elizabeth Cecil is researcher at the Institute for Area Studies.

More information about Elizabeth Cecil

Elizabeth A. Cecil (Ph.D. 2016, Brown University) is a historian of Hindu religions in early South and Southeast Asia with Sanskrit and Hindi as her primary research languages. Her work integrates the study of text, image, monument, and landscape to better understand religion as a spatial, material, and ecologically grounded practice. She is currently an Associate Professor of Religion at Florida State University (USA) and the primary Research Collaborator in the ERC PURANA Project hosted by Leiden University (2022-2027). 

Since Elizabeth’s research relies on the synthesis of primary sources, both textual and material, her research agenda is philologically and archeologically grounded and defined by a rigorous program of field research. She has conducted fieldwork across South and Southeast Asia (India, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Java) and cultivated multiple sub-specializations in the material cultures of these regions. Her textual scholarship focuses on Sanskrit inscriptions and narrative literature—particularly the genres of purāṇa and māhātmya—concerned with communicating religious identities and mapping sacred geography. 

Elizabeth’s current book project, entitled Natural Wonders: Indigenous Ecologies and the Building of Hinduism in Early Southeast Asia, examines the structural remains, inscriptions, and iconographic programs of three monumental temple complexes from Vietnam, Laos, and Java between the 5th-10th centuries CE, to show how centuries of accretional building practices produced architectures designed to control powerful places and transform indigenous sacred geographies into political landscapes dedicated to Hindu deities. 

With her first book—Mapping the Pāśupata Landscape: Narrative, Place, and the Śaiva Imaginary in Early North India (Brill 2020)—she explored the sacred geography of the earliest community of Śiva devotees called the Pāśupatas. This book brings the narrative cartography of the Skandapurāṇa into conversation with physical landscapes, Sanskrit inscriptions, monuments, and images in order to examine the ways in which Pāśupatas were emplaced in regional landscapes and to emphasize the use of material culture as media through which notions of belonging and identity were expressed. By exploring the ties between the formation of Pāśupata communities and the locales in which they were embedded, this study reflects critically upon the ways in which community building was coincident with place-making in Early Medieval India. 

Elizabeth's research has been supported by fellowships and awards from the Getty Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Social Science Research Council (SSRC), Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), and the European Research Council (ERC). 


August 2018 – present

Florida State University, USA
Assistant Professor, Religions of South & Southeast Asia, Department of Religion 

February 2017 – August 2018

Leiden University, the Netherlands
Lecturer & Researcher, South & Southeast Asian Studies, Institute for Area Studies

May 2016 – February 2017

British Museum, UK, 
Post-Doctoral Researcher, European Research Council (ERC) Synergy Project: ASIA: Beyond Boundaries

May 2016

Brown University, Providence, RI 
Ph.D. in Asian Religions & Sanskrit 

2013-2014 Maharaja Sayajirao University, Vadodara, India
Visiting Research Fellow, Department of Archeology and Ancient History
2012-2013 University of Groningen, the Netherlands
Visiting Research Fellow, Institute of Indian Studies 

Selected Publications


Cecil, E.A. (2020) Mapping the Pāśupata Landscape: Narrative, Place, and the Śaiva Imaginary in Early Medieval North India. Gonda Indological Studies no. 21.  Leiden: Brill.


Cecil E.A. & Bisschop P.C. eds. (2021) Primary Sources and Asian Pasts.  Berlin: De Gruyter.

Cecil E.A. & DenBoer, L. eds. (2020) Framing Intellectual and Lived Spaces in Early South Asia: Sources and Boundaries. Berlin: De Gruyter.


Cecil, E.A. (2022) “A Forgotten Family Portrait: Irenic Śaivism in the Art of Daśapura,” Archives of Asian Art 72(2): 155-180. 

Cecil, E.A. (2022) “Building Belonging: Śaiva Temple Communities in South & Southeast Asia,” in H.P Ray, Salila Kulshreshtha & Uthara Suvrathan (eds), Routledge Handbook of the Hindu Temple: Materiality, Social History and Practice (pp. 375-393) London: Routledge. 

Cecil, E.A. (2021) “A Natural Wonder: From Liṅga Mountain to 'Prosperous Lord' at Vat Phu,” in Peter C. Bisschop, & Elizabeth A. Cecil (eds.), Primary Sources and Asian Pasts (pp. 341-383). Berlin: De Gruyter. 

Bisschop, P.C. & Cecil, E.A. (2021) “Jayati Bhagavāñ Jinendraḥ! Jainism and Royal Representation in the Kadamba Copper Plates from Palāśika,” co-authored with Peter C. Bisschop.  Journal of the American Oriental Society 141(3): 613-635. 

Cecil, E.A. & Gomes, M (2021)“Kāma at the Kadamba Court: The Guḍnāpur Pillar Inscription of Ravivarman as a Text-Monument,” co-authored with Mekhola Gomes, Indo-Iranian Journal 64: 10-50.

Cecil E.A. & Bisschop P.C (2021) “Innovation and Idiom in the 'Gupta Period': Revisiting Eran and Sondhni,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 58(1): 29-71.

Cecil E.A. & Bisschop P.C (2019) “Columns in Context: Venerable Monuments and Landscapes of Memory in Early India,” co-authored with Peter C. Bisschop, History of Religions 58(4): 355-403. 

Cecil, E.A. (2018) “Mapping the Pāśupata Landscape: Narrative, Tradition, and the Geographic Imaginary,” The Journal of Hindu Studies, 11(3): 282-303. 

Visiting researcher

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • LUCSoR
  • No relevant ancillary activities
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