Dr Peter Lehr

Dr Peter Lehr

Senior Lecturer in Terrorism Studies

Researcher profile

+44 (0)1334 46 1946


Research areas

I am a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), School of International Relations, University of St Andrews, which I joined 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 and pirates); while in the case of militant Buddhism, I frequently embark 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 often comes 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.

PhD supervision

  • Scott Ward
  • Nathan Southern
  • Kara Osborne
  • Robert Officer
  • Bastian Van Der Neut
  • Craig Ross

Selected publications


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