Peter Lehr

I joined the CSTPV 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/pirates); while in the case of militant Buddhism, I embarked 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 comes often 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.

CSTPV Room 2.33

Office Hours: Thursdays 2pm to 4pm

Phone: 01334 461946


Most recent publications:

  • Pirates – A New History, from Vikings to Somali Raiders. New Haven and New York: Yale University Press (also available as audio book, and soon in Chinese, Czech, Italian and Turkish translations as well)
  • Militant Buddhism: The Rise of Religious Violence in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. Palgrave Macmillan 2019
  • “Diskurse der Gewalt: militanter Buddhismus und extremistischer Islamismus in Burma” (Discourses of Violence: Militant Buddhism and Extremist Islamism in Burma). In Jahrbuch Terrorismus 2017/2018, Stefan Hansen and Joachim Krause, 125-152. Opladen, Berlin and Toronto: Verlag Barbara Budrich 2019
  • Counter-Terrorism Technologies: A Critical Assessment. Springer Advanced Sciences and Technologies for Security Applications. Cham: Springer International 2019