PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Boston, MA
November 18-21, 2017

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Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

This Unit’s mission is to create an environment that promotes discussion among scholars taking diverse approaches to the study of Tibetan and Himalayan religions. Our identity and cohesion derive from the fact that we deal with a delimited geocultural space, but the intellectual excitement comes from the fact that we are specialists in different historical periods and cultural areas, from the fact that we are interested in different religious traditions, and from the fact that we have different methodological approaches to the study of religion. In particular, we encourage scholarship that approaches Tibetan and Himalayan religions through a wide range of approaches:

Multidisciplinary focus — we are committed to methodological diversity and to promoting scholarship that challenges the traditional disciplinary dichotomies through which the field has defined itself, such as text/practice, written/oral, philology/ethnography, and humanistic/social scientific study.

Transregional focus — we encourage a holistic approach to the study of Tibet and the Himalaya as a region, albeit a diverse one. One of the most important features of religious traditions in our field — perhaps in every field — is the degree to which they are inextricably connected, and it is only through the exploration of such interconnections that the phenomenon of religion in the Tibeto-Himalayan region can be understood. Such interconnections often cut across ethnonational boundaries.

Focus on cultural history — in the last decade, the study of Asian religions has taken a quite drastic cultural/historical turn. Nowhere is this more evident than in the study of Tibetan and Himalayan religions. A previous generation of scholars was concerned principally with elite religious institutions — and more specifically with their doctrinal/philosophical texts. Today scholarship is much more diverse. A new generation of scholars is concerned, for example, with folk religious practices, religion and material culture, the politics of religious institutions, the representation of Tibetan religions in the media, and the historical construction of the field itself.

This Unit is committed to fostering such a multifaceted approach to the cultural history of Tibet and the Himalayas.

Call for Papers: 

• Buddhist approaches to kāvya in Tibet and South Asia, with special interest in apparent gaps or tensions between worldly/courtly aspects of kāvya and Buddhist values and practices of renunciation (potential co-sponsorship with Religion in South Asia and/or Buddhism), suggested by Nancy Lin (

• LGBT or queer sexualities and subjectivities in Buddhist traditions, for possible co-sponsorship with Queer Studies and Religion, Religion and Sexuality, or Buddhism, suggested by Julie Regan (

• Material religion, Natasha Mikles (

• Comparative studies in religion titled “Rethinking Magic”, Eric Mortensen (

• Religious efficacy and resistance to state projects, Annabella Pitkin (

• Voices from Larung Gar, Holly Gayley (

• Religion & ecology, Aaron Weiss (

• Spirit possession in the Himalayas, Katarina Turpeinen ( and Christopher Bell (

• Tibetan masculinity, Tibetan femininity, Natasha Mikles ( and Jue Liang ( They note that proposals from all religious traditions in Tibet are welcome.

• Art, ritual, and embodiment, for possible co-sponsorship with Buddhism or Body and Religion units, Rae Dachille (

• Sectarian boundaries in Tibetan Buddhism, Manuel Lopez ( and Dominic Sur (

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members
ChairSteering Committee