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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)


Tomas Larsson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St John’s College.

He received a PhD in Government from Cornell University in 2007. From 1990 to 2000, he worked as a freelance journalist based in Southeast Asia.

As an undergraduate, he studied East and Southeast Asian Studies and Thai at Lund University, Sweden.

Dr Larsson welcomes postgraduate applications on topics relating to Southeast Asian politics in general and the politics of Thailand in particular.

He is particularly interested in research projects that focus on state formation, Buddhism and politics, democratisation, economic development, and political ideology in Southeast Asia.

He has supervised MPhil and PhD theses on a wide range of topics, including Cambodian nationalism; constitutionalism in Thailand and Japan; central banking in Thailand; the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia; opposition politics in Malaysia; political culture in Singapore; social movements in Thailand; sex trafficking in Cambodia and the Philippines; ASEAN and human rights; Malaysian foreign policy; Singaporean foreign policy; ethnic violence in Indonesia; the Rohingya refugee crisis.


Key publications: 


  • ‘The ambiguous allure of Ashoka: Buddhist kingship as precedent, potentiality, and pitfall for covenantal pluralism in Thailand’ The Review of Faith & International Affairs 19:2 (2021), pp. 72-87.
  • ‘Royal succession and the politics of religious purification in contemporary Thailand’ Journal of Contemporary Asia (
  • ‘The political economy of state patronage of religion: Evidence from Thailand.’ International Political Science Review 40:4 (2019), pp. 576–90.
  • ‘Secularisation, secularism, and the Thai state.’ In Pavin Chachavalpongpun (ed.), Routledge handbook of contemporary Thailand (Abingdon: Routledge, 2019), pp. 278–290.
  • ‘Buddhist bureaucracy and religious freedom in Thailand.’ Journal of Law and Religion 33:2 (2018), pp. 197–211.
  • ‘In search of liberalism: Ideological traditions, translations, and troubles in Thailand.’ Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 32:3 (2017), pp. 531–61.
  • ‘Who catches the biotech train? Understanding diverging political responses to GMOs in Southeast Asia.’ The Journal of Peasant Studies 43:5 (2016), pp. 1068–94.
  • ‘Buddha or the ballot: The Buddhist exception to universal suffrage in contemporary Asia.’ In Hiroko Kawanami (ed.), Buddhism and the political process (London: Palgrave), pp. 78–96.
  • ‘Monkish politics in Southeast Asia: Religious disenfranchisement in comparative and theoretical perspective.’ Modern Asian Studies 49:1 (2015): 40–82.
  • ‘The rise of the organic foods movement as a transnational phenomenon.’ In Ronald J Herring (ed.), Oxford handbook of food, politics, and society (New York: Oxford University Press), pp. 739–754.
  • ‘The strong and the weak: Ups and downs of state capacity in Southeast Asia.’ Asian Politics & Policy 5:3 (2013): 337–358.
  • Land and loyalty: Security and the development of property rights in Thailand (Cornell University Press, 2012).
  • ‘Western imperialism and defensive underdevelopment of property rights institutions in Siam.’ Journal of East Asian Studies 8:1 (2008): 1–28.
  • ‘Intertextual relations: The geopolitics of land rights in Thailand.’ Political Geography 26:7 (2007): 775–803.
  • ‘Reform, corruption, and growth: Why corruption is more devastating in Russia than in China.’ Communist and Post-Communist Studies 39(2), pp. 265–281.


For a full list of scholarly publications, please go to:

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Associate Professor of Politics and International Studies
University Teaching Officer
Fellow, St John’s College

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