From 1893 onward, French colonialism sponsored and restructured
Lao and Khmer Buddhism in order to create an ‘Indochinese Buddhism’.
Over a span of several decades, the French promoted monastic
education, reconstructed the major temples in Vientiane, and renovated
the That Luang, the most important Buddhist relic shrine of Laos. This
article explores the motivations and strategies for this endeavor, specifically
focusing on French efforts to ‘re-materialize’ Lao Buddhism’s
religious architecture. I argue that the renovation of these monuments as
symbols and centers of power under the auspices of the École française
d’Extrême-Orient was based on mimetic processes that should be understood
as a form of ceremonial governmentality and colonial politics of
affect, whose goal was to win the ‘sympathies’ of the colonized.