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Dr Rupert Arrowsmith at Chanmyay Yeiktha Monastery, Hmawbi, Myanmar, in 2013
I am an internationally-based scholar of the history of art, with a particular interest in global Buddhist statuary and in the hidden histories and narratives of museums. My publications have been eclectic, and include two well-reviewed books with Oxford University Press, some poetry about the nature of the sacred, and numerous illustrated essays, mainly on conversations between diverse provinces of visual culture, especially the relationship between the sculpture traditions of southern and eastern Asia and those of the West (see Writing).
I am British, but grew up in Kenya, the Seychelles, and Cornwall in the Southwest of England, and have lived the vast majority of my adult life in Asia - mainly India, Japan, Myanmar, and Singapore. I have a doctorate from Christ Church college of the University of Oxford, have held fellowships at University College London and at the London University School of Advanced Study, and have given courses of lectures at Oxford, SOAS London University, the University of Shanghai, and at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai, where I was Visiting Professor of Asian Art from 2011-2015. I have also been a trustee and board member of Myanmar's Irrawaddy Literary Festival since its second iteration in 2014.
I am frequently invited to conferences and literary festivals as a speaker, and have done readings or given papers on museums and art history in the UK, Ireland, Sweden, India, Bhutan, Myanmar, China, Japan, and the USA.
I have always been intensely fascinated by religious mythology and spiritual traditions. I am particularly interested in Buddhist ethics and meditational practices, and have received full ordination on two occasions as a Theravada Buddhist monk, taking a strict vow of silence and meditating in isolation at a forest retreat in Myanmar for ninety days. I have written about these experiences for CNN, and have described them in a USA Today documentary.
In 2015 I was invited to Bhutan to read my poem about global Buddhism, 'The Way to Bhutan', to open the country's national literature festival. The poem was dedicated to His Majesty the Fourth Druk of Bhutan, and a copy was presented in a silver Burmese document-cylinder to Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, the Royal Queen Mother.
I am currently completing an exciting new volume about Myanmar, of which more very soon.
Dr Rupert Arrowsmith in Yangon, Myanmar, in 2020