UCL Anthropology


Kakanang Yavaprabhas


UCL Email: k.yavaprabhas.12@ucl.ac.uk
Year of Start: 2012
Supervisors: Prof. David Napier, Dr. Joanna Cook
Subject: Social Anthropology
Field site: Thailand

PhD Research

The values of ordination: The bhikkhuni, gender, and Thai society

My research looks at the bhikkhuni, female monks or fully ordained nuns, in relation to Thai society, with a focus on the gender aspect.

In Thailand, where around 95 per cent of the population self-identify as Buddhist, religious professionals who received full ordination have highly prestigious status. However, full ordination is not locally available to Thai women, regardless of the point that the Buddha allows both men and women to be fully ordained. It was only in 2003 that the first Thai woman controversially became fully ordained as Theravada bhikkhuni. Her ordination is apparently linked to the ongoing international bhikkhuni movements, which have contributed to the controversial revival of Theravada bhikkhuni in various countries since the twentieth century, making it one of the hottest issues in Buddhism today. Most literature focuses on the legitimacy (or lack thereof) of the ordination and only recently that there is a growth in the literature on the Thai bhikkhuni themselves and their emergence.

Based mainly on ethnographic fieldwork, my research examines a relatively unexplored aspect-the bhikkhuni's social implications for gender in Thai society. Approaching the topic through taking local modes of thoughts, tradition, and a multiplicity of voices into account, my research explores the social values of the ordination and of the fully ordained form in the saffron robes, narratives of the bhikkhuni on gender and their self-presentation, and the way they all contribute to empowerment of lay women and positive change in gender ideologies.

Research Interests

  • Gender, religion and society
  • Materiality and religion
  • Agency and freedom
  • Power and empowerment
  • Local modes of thoughts


"We've become ordained for our mothers": Temporary samaneri ordination in Thailand. Anthropolitan (a UCL Journal of Anthropology), Issue No. 14 (Summer 2017), pp. 12-13. Available from: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/anthropology/news-and-events/newsletter/Anthropolitan-14-low.pdf.

Presentations & Conferences

  • (To be presented) Gender in transformation: The temporary Buddhist ordination and women's empowerment in Thailand. Paper to be presented at the Eight International Conference on Religion and Spirituality in Society, Berkeley, USA, April 2018.
  • Out of politics? Doing field work with Bhikkhuni, female Buddhist monks, in Thailand. Paper presented at Anthropology in London Day 2016, London, UK, 14 June 2016.

Education History

  • 2011: MSc Social Anthropology (Merit), London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), UK
  • 2009: BA English (First Class Honours), Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

Honours, Awards & Funding

Thai Government Scholarship.