Personal profile

Research overview

I am a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), School of International Relations, University of St Andrews, which I joined in September 2004, initially as a Research Fellow tasked with exploring the nexus between piracy and maritime terrorism. Prior to that, I taught Political Science of South/Southeast Asia at the South Asia Institute (SAI), University of Heidelberg, where I also received my Magister Artium (September 1996) and my Dr. rer pol in Political Science (PhD, February 2004).

I am a regional expert on the Indo-Pacific, with a special research interest in violent ‘grey area phenomena’ such as terrorism, political violence, and organized crime – in particular, in maritime terrorism and piracy (as sea-borne organized crime); and in religious violence (with a focus on militant Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism). My current research is on militant (Theravāda) Buddhism, Buddhist Nationalism and Buddhist Vigilantism – manifestations of Buddhism that I like to call ‘Enraged Buddhism’ as opposed to the better-known ‘Engaged Buddhism’ in the shape of Buddhist environmentalism or social activism.

My research philosophy follows Max Weber’s ‘Verstehen’, that is seeing and understanding the meaning of an action from the actors’ perspective – not necessarily to sympathize, but to empathize with the actors and their actual beliefs, cultural values and motivations. In the case of organized crime, this led me to interview a wide range of actors (for example, Chinese Triads, Southeast Asian smugglers and pirates); while in the case of militant Buddhism, I frequently embark on participant observation: staying at (Thai) Buddhist temples as a lay follower and travelling with a group of ascetic monks, to watch, ask, and listen. My research output thus often comes in the shape of a ‘thick description’ according to Clifford Geertz that describes the behaviour of the actors in question along with the context in which they are situated. My recent monographs Militant Buddhism on the one hand, and Pirates – A New History on the other, are examples for this approach.


Research interests

Topically: Violent 'grey area phenomena' such as terrorism and political violence, organized crime (in particular, piracy as sea-borne organized crime), religious violence (with a focus on militant Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism)

Regionally: Asian Security Relations with a focus on the Indo-Pacific (esp. South and Southeast Asia)

Future research

Work in progress: research on Theravada Buddhist nationalism and Buddhist vigilantism; on maritime terrorism (book manuscript in preparation)

Longer-term: research on the security relations of Indo-Pacific rim states, including traditional security studies (with a focus on governance at sea) and various non-traditional security studies (for example, effects of over-fishing, piracy, asymmetric warfare at sea)

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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