You are here

Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Unit

Call for Proposals for November Meeting

We are looking forward to another year of excellent THRU programming in 2024 in San Diego!

We are pleased to announce that the Travel Grant for Tibetan and Himalayan scholars will run again next year. Two attendees enjoyed full support in 2023, and we are able to support even more in 2024. If you are a Tibetan or Himalayan scholar, please apply. If you are forming a panel, consider reaching out to Tibetan and Himalayan scholars who might join your panel and attend the AAR in San Diego with the assistance of the grant funds. The grant is administered by the Initiative for Tibetan, Himalayan, and Buddhist Studies in the American Academy, supported by the Khyentse Foundation. Applications for the travel grant will require acceptance to an AAR panel. More information will follow in January 2024.


As a reminder, you do not need to be an AAR member to submit a proposal to the annual meeting; however, you do have to become a member to present at the annual meeting.

Proposals are welcome on any theme or topic related to Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Unit. The presidential theme for 2024, suggested by incoming president Jin Park, is "Violence, Non-Violence, and the Margin."  Proposals do not need to relate to the presidential theme but the AAR will be particularly interested in panels that address it.


Please see below the proposed panel sessions we've received, and which we are now publicizing through this call for papers. Contact details of the organizers are below, and you should reach out to them to express your interest. And you are more than welcome to propose your own panel or paper outside of what is listed here.


Violent and Non-violent Interactions with Marginal Beings

Contact Bill McGrath, Expanding upon the presidential theme of "Violence, Non-violence, and the Margin," this panel seeks to explore the relationships and sometimes violent interactions that take place between beings within and between the religious worlds of Tibet, the Himalayas, and beyond. Papers would ideally consider the boundaries and relationships between central and marginal beings (broadly conceived), and address themes, acts, and/or threats of violence in religious sources and contexts.  


Tibetan Religion from the Margins: Approaches to the Study of Early Dzogchen

Contact Elaine Lai and Devin Zuckerman Dzogchen has been on the margins of Tibetan religions since its advent. Early Dzogchen studies from the 11th to 14th centuries have been on the margins of Tibetan Buddhist studies; only very recently in the history of the discipline have scholars begun engaging with Dzogchen Heart Essence (Snying thig) materials from this period in an effort to better understand the early development of the tradition. Working from these margins, this panel seeks to engage larger questions about the ethics and methods involved in reconstructing histories of early Dzogchen communities and praxis. What approaches have we, as scholars, taken up in our analysis and emplotment of these early Dzogchen materials? In what ways do we risk doing violence to texts and histories through our analysis? How do our relationships with contemporary Dzogchen communities and praxis inform our scholarship? What happens when we encounter materials that are violent to our own sensibilities? We invite papers that approach these questions from diverse methodological and theoretical angles. We aim for the panel to unfold into a wider conversation with the audience, to reflect collectively upon the ethical frameworks in the work that we all do as scholars of religion.   


Autobiographical Poetry in Translation

Contact either Gedun Rabsal ( or Nicole Willock ( We are looking for others to join a roundtable session on the theme of translating Tibetan autobiographical poetry. In advance of the AAR, we will share our own originial translations of autobiographical poetry. At the AAR, we will have a roundtable session focusing on aspects of translation. To focus the discussion, the idea is to look at four different autobiographical writings in verse including figures such as Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche Jamyang Chokyi Lodro (1893-1959).  


Teaching with Buddhist Art and Material Culture

Contact ElenaPakhoutova and Karl Debreczeny

This roundtable aims to bring together people who are interested in engaging with art and material culture as the entry point for teaching about Buddhism. Rubin Museum’s recently launched Project Himalayan Art is designed to provide resources for making connections across diverse regional expressions of Buddhist culture and expanding representation of the Himalayan and Inner Asian religious cultures’ in classrooms. We are particularly interested in the critical analysis of these resources from the practical pedagogical standpoint, and welcome participation from faculty who either have used the Project Himalayan Art resources or focus on art and material culture in their teaching. In the course of this discussion, we intend to learn about resources for teaching religion that have proven effective in order to further the development of Project Himalayan Art and meet faculty and students’ needs.  


Co-Sponsored Session with Space, Place, and Religion Unit "Marginal Spaces and Marginal Beings in Tibet and the Himalayas"

Contact Brandon Dotson; Tibet has long conceived of itself as a frontier or a borderland of unruly human and non-human beings in need of taming, mostly by Indian Buddhism. Now absent from most maps, and facing the erasure of even the name "Tibet," per PRC mandate, Tibetan language and culture occupies an increasingly marginalized space. To put this contemporary space of the margin - and its dynamics of violence and non-violence - into perspective, this panel invites contributions that concern marginal spaces and marginal beings in Tibet and the Himalayas. Contributions might examine marginal figures such as butchers and morticians, zombies, wildmen, and revenants; interpersonal relations with beings such as sinpos, lumos, and dakinis; utopias ("non-places") such as hidden lands (beyul) and paradises; or liminal spaces of pilgrimage, crossroads, and rivers.

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 recent times, 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.


Steering Committee Members


Review Process

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