Thomas Gibson

Thomas P. Gibson

  • Professor of Anthropology

Ph.D. in Social Anthropology, London School of Economics, 1983

Office Location
442 Lattimore Hall
(585) 275-8739
(585) 273-5331
Web Address

Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays 3:30 - 4:30 PM

Research Overview

Professor Gibson’s first field research project concerned the relationship between the egalitarian and pacifist values of the Buid, an indigenous people inhabiting the highlands of Mindoro, Philippines, and the hierarchical and aggressive values of the Christian and Muslim societies found in the lowlands (1986). He followed this up with a comparative study of attitudes toward violence and aggression among shifting cultivators throughout Southeast Asia, showing that they varied according to historical exposure of different groups to raiding by lowland and coastal societies (1990). This study inspired his next field research project, a study of the formation of predatory states among the Makassar of South Sulawesi, Indonesia in relation to peer polities around the Java Sea in the period before 1600 CE (2005). He then turned his attention to the shifting relationships among social, political and religious centers of authority in Southeast Asia from 1300 to 2000 (2007). In a forthcoming monograph on Subjectivity and Sovereignty in Islamic Southeast Asia: Polyontological Practices among the Makassar, he will examine the political implications of life cycle rituals, Islamic devotional practices and mass schooling. He plans to follow this trilogy of monographs on Islam in Indonesia with a comparative study of the development of Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist nationalism in the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. In 2009, he returned to his original research interest by helping to organize a comparative study of ten egalitarian societies in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, which resulted in an edited volume (2011). This study has led to a new project concerning the history of the movement for the rights of indigenous peoples, both in the Philippines and around the world.

Research Interests

  • Indigenous peoples of Southeast Asia
  • The anthropology of war and peace
  • Cosmology and state formation
  • Islamic states
  • Religious nationalism in the Indian Ocean
  • Colonialism and bureaucracy

Selected Publications

Published Monographs and Edited Volumes

  • 2019    Hierarchy and Egalitarianism in Austronesia.  Edited volume with Ku Kun-hui.  Special issue of Anthropological Forum 29(3).
  • 2015 Sacrifice and Sharing in the Philippine Highlands: Religion and Society among the Buid of Mindoro. Philippine Edition with a new Introduction. Manila: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
  • 2011 Anarchic Solidarity: Autonomy, Equality and Familiarity in Island Southeast Asia.  Edited volume with Kenneth Sillander.  New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies Monographs No. 60.
  • 2007 Islamic Narrative and Authority in Southeast Asia from the 16th to the 21st Century.New York: Palgrave Macmillan Press.
  • 2012 Narasi Islam dan Otoritas di Asia Tenggara: Abad ke-16 Hingga Abad ke-21.  Translation by Nurhady Sirimorok into Bahasa Indonesia of Islamic Narrative and Authority in Southeast Asia.  Makassar, Indonesia:  Penerbit Ininnawa.
  • 2005 And The Sun Pursued the Moon: Symbolic Knowledge and Traditional Authority Among The Makassar. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
  • 2009 Kekuasaan Raja, Syeikh, dan Ambtenaar: Pengetahuan Simbolik dan Kekuasan Tradisional Makassar 1300-2000.  Translation by Nurhady Sirimorok into Bahasa Indonesia of And the Sun Pursued the Moon.  Makassar, Indonesia:  Penerbit Ininnawa.
  • 1986 Sacrifice and Sharing in the Philippine Highlands: Religion and Society among the Buid of Mindoro.London School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology No. 58 London: The Athlone Press (Berg).

Monographs in Preparation

  • Indigenous Rights and Religious Nationalism in Southeast Asia.
  • Subjectivity and Sovereignty in Islamic Southeast Asia. Third and final volume in a series on the interaction of Austronesian kinship, Islamic religion, European colonialism and formal schooling in Southeast Asia.
  • Entangled Traditions:  Religion & Culture in the Indian Ocean, 1500-2009.
  • War and Peace in Southeast Asia: Selected Papers on Dominance, Violence and Aggression.
  • Narratives of Authority and Rebellion: Makassar Texts, Translations and Commentaries.

Selected Articles

  • 2021  “ Sociality, Value, and Symbolic Complex among the Makassar of Indonesia.” In Kenneth Sillander, Isabell Herrmans, and Anu Lounela, eds., Qualifying Sociality: Unpacking Vernacular Socialities through Values, a special issue of Anthropological Forum.  DOI: 10.1080/00664677.2021.1886902
  • 2020  “Valeurs politiques et assemblages ontologiques chez les Buid et les Makassar (Asie du Sud-Est insulaire).” [Translation by Arianne Dorval, of “Political values and ontological assemblages among the Buid and Makassar (Island Southeast Asia).”] In Hans Steinmüller and Natalia Buitron, eds., Les fins de l’égalitarisme, a special issue of L’Homme: Revue française d’anthropologie 236: 129-158.
  • 2020 “Islamic Models of Social Justice in South Sulawesi, Indonesia.”  Aghamtao:Journal of the Ugnayang Pang-Aghamtao, Inc. (UGAT) 28:1-22.
  • 2019  “From tribal hut to royal palace: the dialectic of equality and hierarchy in Austronesian Southeast Asia.”  In Hierarchy and Egalitarianism in Austronesia. Special issue of Anthropological Forum 29(3): 234-248.
  • 2013 “The hero legend in colonial Southeast Asia.” Philippine Studies 61 (4): 437-476.
  • 2011 “Introduction” (with Kenneth Sillander). In Thomas Gibson and Kenneth Sillander, eds, Anarchic Solidarity: Autonomy, Equality and Fellowship in Southeast Asia, 1-16. New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies Monograph 60.
  • 2011  “Egalitarian islands in a predatory sea.” In Thomas Gibson and Kenneth Sillander, eds, Anarchic Solidarity: Autonomy, Equality and Fellowship in Southeast Asia, 270-293. New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies Monograph 60.
  • 2008  “Mystical responses to the predatory state: Shia Imams and Sufi Shaikhs in the wake of the Mongol invasions.” Journal of Asian Studies 67 (4): 1397-1400.
  • 2008    “From stranger king to stranger shaikh: Austronesian symbolism and Islamic knowledge.” In David Henley and Ian Caldwell, eds., Stranger-Kings in Indonesia and Beyond. A special issue of Indonesia and the Malay World 37 (105): 307-319.
  • 2005 “From humility to lordship in Island Southeast Asia.” In (eds) Thomas Widlok and Wolde Gossa Tadesse Property and Equality Volume II: Encapsulation, Commercialisation, Discrimination. New York:  Berghahn Books.
  • 2000 “Islam and the spirit cults in New Order Indonesia: global flows vs. local knowledge.” Indonesia 69: 41-70.
  • 1995 “Having your house and eating it: houses and siblings in Ara, South Sulawesi.” In (eds) Janet Carsten and Stephen Hugh-Jones About the House: Buildings, Groups, and Categories in Holistic Perspective. Essays on an idea by C. Lévi-Strauss. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • 1994 “Childhood, colonialism and fieldwork among the Buid of the Philippines and the Konjo of Indonesia.” In (eds) Jeannine Koubi and Josiane Massard, Enfants et sociétés d’Asie du Sud-Est.  Paris:  L’Harmattan.
  • 1994 “Ritual and revolution:  contesting the state in central Indonesia.” In Social Analysis 35: 61-83.
  • 1994 “Concluding reflections on units of analysis in the study of the official and the popular.” In Social Analysis 35: 157-164.
  • 1990 “Raiding, trading and tribal autonomy in insular Southeast Asia.” In The Anthropology of War (ed) Jonathan Haas. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • 1989 “Collective ritual as a model for corporate economic activity among the Buid of Mindoro.” In Changing Lives, Changing Rites: Ritual and Social Dynamics in Philippine and Indonesian Uplands (eds) Susan D. Russell and Clark E. Cunningham. Michigan Studies of South and Southeast Asia, No. 1. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies.
  • 1989 “Symbolic representations of tranquility and aggression among the Buid.” In Societies at Peace (eds) Roy Willis and Signe Howell. London: Routledge.
  • 1988 “Meat sharing as political ritual: forms of transaction vs modes of subsistence.” In Hunters and Gatherers, Vol. II:  Property, Power and Ideology (eds) T. Ingold, D. Riches and J. Woodburn.  London:  Berg Publishers.
  • 1985 “The sharing of substance versus the sharing of activity among the Buid.” Man 20 (3): 391-411.


Current Courses

  • ANT 203: Ritual, Myth and Scripture
  • ANT 264: Islam and Global Politics


Past Courses

  • ANT 101: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • ANT 104: Contemporary Issues and Anthropology
  • ANT 202: Modern Social Theory: Key Texts and Issues
  • ANT 262: Culture and Religion in the Indian Ocean
  • ANT 270: Radical Social Theory


  • 2016 Visiting Research Associate at the Institute of Philippine Culture, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines.
  • 2009 Visiting Scholar, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan
  • 2008 ACLS/SSRC/NEH International and Area Studies Senior Fellowship
  • 2008 Honorable Mention, Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion
  • 2007-2013 Editor, Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures
  • 2001 - 2002 Visiting Fellow, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University
  • 1994 Fulbright Senior Scholar, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 1989 Visiting Fellow in the Comparative Austronesian Project, The Australian National University
  • 1985 Visiting Lecturer in Social Anthropology, Cambridge University
  • 1984 – 1985 Lecturer in Social Anthropology, University of Manchester
  • 1983 Sir Raymond Firth Award
  • 1978 Maurice Freedman Prize