Spirits of the Place: Buddhism and Lao Religious Culture, by John Clifford Holt, is a rare and timely contribution to our understanding of religious culture in Laos and Southeast Asia. Most often studied as a part of Thai, Vietnamese, or Khmer history, Laos remains a terra incognita to most Westerners—and to many of the people living throughout Asia as well. Holt’s new book brings this fascinating nation into focus. With its overview of Lao Buddhism and analysis of how shifting political power—from royalty to democracy to communism—has impacted Lao religious culture, the book offers an integrated account of the entwined political and religious history of Laos from the fourteenth century to the contemporary era.
“John Holt’s study of Lao Buddhism makes a unique contribution to our understanding of the understudied religious culture of Laos. Of special value are the comparisons Holt draws between Lao and Sinhala religious culture, and the insight achieved when Buddhist conceptuality, symbol, and ritual are seen through the lens of the indigenous Lao religious substratum rather than vice versa.” —Donald K. Swearer, Director, Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School
August 2009 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3327-5 / $58.00 (CLOTH)