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Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Piphal Heng


Our next Spring 2021 Alumni Spotlight is Dr. Piphal Heng. Read his story below!

My name is Piphal Heng. I am a Cambodian archaeologist, and have been working in the field for nearly 20 years. I lived in Honolulu, Hawai‘i until I graduated from UH Mānoa in Fall 2018, and recently moved to DeKalb, Illinois for my two-year postdoc at the Northern Illinois University, funded by the ACLS-Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies.

Piphal giving the guided tour to Wat Atvea to the team - he had studied it earlier.

My archaeologically-based research program primarily examines political economy, religious-ideological changes, and state formation in early modern Southeast Asia. My dissertation research, entitled, “Organizational Change in Political Economy and Ideology: Transition from the Early Historic to Pre-Angkorian Period Cambodia, viewed from Thala Borivat,” used political economy and settlement pattern analysis to study the relationship between institutionalized religion and organizational shift in the pre-Angkorian period (ca. 5th–8th century CE). I conducted research at two pre-Angkorian centers of Thala Borivat and Sambor located on the Mekong river in northeastern Cambodia.

Piphal is teaching the student

Currently, I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Northern Illinois University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies and the Department of Anthropology. My current research explores ideological and organizational shifts associated with Buddhism from the Angkorian to the post-Angkorian period (c. 14th–18th century CE). This research contributes to our understanding of religious changes, from Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism to Theravada Buddhism, and its synchronic relationship with the communities and the state organizations.

Here are some pictures from my time in the field.

You can find more about Piphal’s research papers and articles on GoogleScholar.

He was also recently featured in this UCLA CSEAS article, where he offers an alternative approach to archeological research to explore how Angkor was led with compassion.