École française d’Extrême-Orient:
École française d’Extrême-Orient‘s historical Background
École française d’Extrême-Orient scholars have been present in Chiang Mai for more than 30 years. In 1975 François Bizot moved there from his assignment in Cambodia in order to continue his research on the rites of the Buddhist communities of Southeast Asia. In 1988 he launched the FEMC project (Publication of Cambodian Manuscript Collections), which later broadened to include the literary heritage of Thailand and Laos. During the 1990s Louis Gabaude, a specialist in contemporary Thai Buddhism and related intellectual movements was invited to create a collection of documents specializing in the Buddhism, anthropology, literature, and history of Thailand and neighboring countries. Anatole Peltier, affiliated with the Rajabhat Institution, carried out comparative research on the literatures of Northern Thailand, Laos, and the Shan and Khün states. Their work and the focus of their field research have had a big influence on the development of research on Southeast Asian Buddhism.
The Center Today
With the construction of its new library, with room for the document collections as they continue to grow, the EFEO Center in Chiang Mai has taken a great leap forward. Beginning in 2011, its large reading room and new research facilities will bring the École française d’Extrême-Orient to the forefront in the field of research on Buddhism. The Library’s more than 45,000 monographs and 40,000 periodicals will also become more immediately accessible. Specialist works on Thailand, as well as on the anthropology, history, and Buddhism of Southeast Asia, will be available for local and international researchers.
Likewise the renovation of the residential buildings will provide more office space and thus will make it possible to welcome, as researchers or resident scholarship holders, more invited guests or short-term visitors, either French scholars or those working in cooperation with international organizations like the ECAF. The buildings will also be able to host academic events and medium-sized conferences. The mission of the Chiang Mai EFEO Centre is trans-regional: indeed given the historic involvement of northern Thailand with Burma, China, and Laos, the principal neighboring countries, Chiang Mai is ideally located for forging and maintaining links among individuals and academic projects related to this wide area that makes up a large part of the Southeast Asian continent.
Currently under consideration are various forms of cooperation with the University of Chiang Mai, notably with its library, as well as shared projects as part of the cooperation already established between the École française d’Extrême-Orient’s Bangkok Center and the Sirindhorn Center.
The Chiang Mai Centre is also due to invest itself into the project of co-editing French scholarly works produced by EFEO scholars and of their international distribution.