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Ryan Wolfson-Ford

Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 4302

Ryan Wolfson-Ford is a historian of 19th and 20th century Laos in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies. In addition to courses on modern Southeast Asia, he teaches thematic courses on Asian Democracy and the Cold War in Asia as well as broader introductory survey courses on Asian and World History for the undergraduate and online History and Asian Studies programs.

His first booklength manuscript concerns the first post-colonial state of Laos as it became a major battlefield of the Cold War. This work presents a pioneering study of the indigenous roots and evolution of Lao forms of democracy and anticommunism while arguing that Lao were not simply pawns of global powers but had agency and ideology by which they charted their own course in the Cold War. Ultimately a new rightwing post-colonial nationalism led Lao leaders to plunge their country into the maw of the Second Indochina War.

He has presented his work at numerous conferences and workshops including the Association of Asian Studies, the International Conference on Lao Studies, the University of London's School of Oriental and Africa Studies and Oxford University. His research has appeared in peer reviewed scholarly journals including the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, South East Asia Research and the Journal of Lao Studies. His latest forthcoming work will appear in an edited volume on monarchy and decolonization from Manchester University Press.

He started working at ASU in 2019 and earned his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before that he was an adjunct at Marist College and Mercy College in New York and Western Connecticut State University. He conducts research in Lao, Thai, and French as well as a number of esoteric scripts of premodern Laos and Thailand. His research has been funded by the Library of Congress Asia Divison, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at UW-Madison, and Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok Thailand among other organizations.


Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

M.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison

B.A., Western Connecticut State University

Research Interests

Modern Laos, Lao elite, palm leaf manuscripts, nationalism, democracy, anti-communism, decolonization and Cold War history, Modern Lao intellectual history.

  • “Loyalism and anti-communism in the making of the modern monarchy in post-colonial Laos,” in Robert Aldrich and Cindy McCreery (eds.) Monarchies and Decolonisation in Asia (forthcoming, under contract with Manchester University Press)
  • “Strangers in the hills: Social disruption and the origins of Lao nationalism (1873-1911)” South East Asia Research 25(4): 412-430, 2017
  • “Sons of Khun Bulom: The discovery by modern Lao Historians of the birth of the Lao race,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 47(2): 168-188, 2016
  • “Luang Prabang and Bangkok: a 19th century friendship,” in Withaya Sucharithanarugse (ed.) Interpretative Studies on Southeast Asian Culture (Bangkok: Institute of Thai Studies, Chulalongkorn University, 2015): 193-225
  • Book Review: “Soren Ivarsson, Creating LaosStudies on Asia, Series IV 2(2), 2012
  • “Memories of Chao Anou: New History and Post-Socialist Ideology” Journal of Lao Studies 2(2): 104-126, 2011
Fall 2019
Course NumberCourse Title
HST 100Global History to 1500
HST 303Studies in Asian History



  • "Nativism and Nationalism in the Transformation of Lao Anticommunism (1953-1955)," ASU School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies Works In Progress Seminar, December 6, 2019
  • (with Mr. Prany Sananikone) “Traditional Families of Vientiane in the Mid-Twentieth Century Kingdom of Laos” Sixth International Conference on Lao Studies, Cornell University, June 14, 2019
  • “Democracy in the Royal Lao Government-era (1945-1975)” Sixth International Conference on Lao Studies, Cornell University, June 13, 2019
  • “Phoumi Nosavan, the Royal Lao Army, and the limits of Dictatorship in Democratic Laos, 1958-1964,” Association of Asian Studies Annual Conference, Denver Colorado, March 23, 2019
  • “Prelude to the division of Lan Xang: The monarchy and three factions in seventeenth-century Laos” Association of Asian Studies Annual Conference, Toronto Canada, March 18, 2017
  • “Luang Prabang and Bangkok: a 19th century ‘friendship’” Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok Thailand, June 1, 2014
  • “Unity and Collapse in the early-modern Lao kingdoms” Council on Thai Studies Conference, University of Wisconsin-Madison, October 20, 2011
  • “Upland Lowland Dynamics in the Apex of Lan Xang” Council on Thai Studies Conference, University of Wisconsin-Madison, October 12, 2010
  • “Prismatic Flag: The many “Ho” Invasions of Laos, 1869-1893” Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute Student Conference, University of Wisconsin-Madison, August 2, 2009
Honors / Awards
  • Junior Fellowship, Library of Congress Asia Division (Lao, Thai, Burmese manuscripts)
  • Florence Tan Moeson Fellowship, Library of Congress Asia Division
Professional Associations
  • Association of Asian Studies
  • World History Association
  • Center for Lao Studies
  • Thai, Lao, Cambodia Studies Group
Work History
  • Lecturer, History Faculty, School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, Arizona State University 2019 to present
  • Adjunct, History Dept., Marist College 2017 to 2019
  • Adjunct, Humanities Dept., Mercy College 2016 to 2017
  • Adjunct, History and Non-Western Culture Dept., Western Connecticut State University 2015 to 2016
  • Board member, Center for Lao Studies
  • Consultant, "Between 2 Worlds" CLS Museum Project