Elizabeth Cecil is a guest researcher at the Institute for Area Studies.
Elizabeth received her PhD from Brown University in May 2016 with a dissertation entitled, ‘Mapping the Pāśupata Landscape: The Skanda Purāṇa, Lakulīśa, and the Śaiva Imaginary in Early Medieval Northwest India (6th – 10th century CE)’. Since completing her PhD, she has conducted fieldwork and archival research on new projects with funding from the European Research Council (ERC) project ‘Asia Beyond Boundaries: Religion, Region, Language and the State’ centered at the British Museum, the International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS) in Leiden, and the Scaliger Institute at Leiden University Library.
Elizabeth is trained as an historian of South and Southeast Asian religions with Sanskrit as her primary research languages. Her work explores the intersections of religion, politics, and place-making with a particular focus on the development of sanctified spaces and religious institutions in Early Medieval India, a formative historical period marked by the flourishing of regional devotional movements and the innovations of temple and image-centered religious practices. Since her work relies heavily on the synthesis of primary sources, her research agenda is philologically and archeologically grounded and defined by a rigorous program of field research. She has conducted extensive fieldwork across South and Southeast Asia (India, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam) and cultivated multiple sub-specializations in the material cultures of these regions. Elizabeth’s textual scholarship focuses on epigraphic sources and Sanskrit narrative literature—particularly the genres of purāṇa and māhātmya—concerned with communicating religious identities and mapping sacred topography. In conceptualizing her work, she draws on phenomenological approaches to place and landscape, theorizes alternative archives, considers the social life and agency of material objects, and explores the ways in which monuments and images are strategically employed to socialize spaces and materialize identities.
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