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Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Unit

Call for Proposals

Thank you for your contributions to the Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Unit in Denver 2022! It was an exceptional year; attendance of scholars from Tibetan and Himalayan religions has increased tremendously. This was due to the generous Travel Grant funded by the Khyentse Foundation.

We are pleased to announce that this Travel Grant will run again next year, but it will now be administered by the Initiative for Tibetan, Himalayan, and Buddhist Studies in the American Academy rather than the AAR. Applications for the travel grant will require acceptance to an AAR panel. More information will follow in January 2023.

We are pleased to announce that you do not need to be an AAR member to submit a proposal to the annual meeting; however, you do have to have membership to present at the annual meeting.

As co-chairs, we understand that there are principled reasons to boycott Texas for its elected officials' assault on human rights, including the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people. We urge caution to anyone who is pregnant and considering traveling to Texas or to any other state where reproductive rights have been eroded or do not exist. We also recognize that there are principled reasons to continue to engage with and to travel to places such as Texas. The AAR, for its part, has stated that it is locked into contracts for approximately 10 years with various convention centers, and that to cancel a single conference would be to bankrupt the organization and to threaten its continued existence. In sum, we suggest that one extend understanding and respect both to those who for principled reasons choose to boycott events in places such as Texas, and to those who, also for principled reasons, choose to take part.

Proposals are welcome on any theme or topic related to Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Unit for next year’s American Academy of Religion annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. The presidential theme for 2023, suggested by Amir Hussain is La Labor de Nuestras Manos/ The Work of Our Hands. Hussain wrote, “I have worked for the past 25 years in Los Angeles, and will deliver my presidential address in San Antonio. In both cities, Spanish is the dominant language, but often isn’t recognized as such. I think that I am the fourth scholar of Islam (after Wilfred Cantwell Smith, John Esposito, and Jane McAuliffe) and the first Muslim to be elected as president. I want to say a few things about the study of Islam in particular, but also to connect that more generally to the work that we do in the study of religion and think more broadly about what it is that we do when we do the work of our hands. Part of this involves looking at both the study of religion and the study of theology, and the often-false dichotomy that is set up between the two. In that vein, I want to talk about some of the really interesting work being done in Islamic studies in constructive Muslim theology. But I also want to talk about the actual work that we do as scholars of religion, which often isn’t the production of scholarly monographs that are sometimes only read by a handful of people, but work that affects thousands. This connects both to the public understanding of religion, and the alternatives to traditional tenure-line roles in the academy.” Proposals do not need to relate to the presidential theme but the AAR will be particularly interested in panels that address it.

Please contact the organizers directly if you are interested in joining their proposed panel sessions:

Within and Between Human and Non-human Natures: Reflections on Trans-corporeality in Tibetan Buddhism | Organizer: Devin Zuckerman

A panel exploring the ways Tibetan Buddhist communities and cultures have used bodily substances and fabricated material objects (relics, pills, smoke, ritual devices, etc) to portray the “transcorporeal” – the connections, fluidities, and porous boundaries within and between human bodies and non-human environments.

Revisitng “Ris-med” (provisional title) | Organizer: Andrew Taylor, The College of Saint Scholastica,

Even as most scholars have concluded that there was never a nineteenth-century ris med “movement” per se, the category has nevertheless become increasingly influential in Tibetan, Tibetan exile, and Tibetan Buddhist communities. How has ris med operated in different discursive contexts? What is the future of ris med discourse? How might the project of Kongtrul, Khyentse, and other nineteenth-century luminaries be better conceptualized? How might ris med be useful (or not) in engaging other theories of pluralism?

Celebrating Tibetan and Himalayan Women (provisional title) | Organizer: Jed Forman

This panel will explore important female figures in Tibetan and Himalayan history. We invite proposals about various prominent women, including key religious, political, or literary figures. We are especially interested in analyses of works about or authored by women who were religious figures.

A panel in honor of Anne Klein’s scholarly career contributions to Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, Women’s Studies, and Contemplative Studies. | Organizer: Michael Sheehy

Discussion will foreground the multiple epistemologies at work in Klein’s publications from Geluk discourse between Sautantrika and Madhyamaka inKnowledge and Liberation (1987) and Knowing, Naming, and Negation (1997) to the situatedness of gender in Meeting the Great Bliss Queen (2008) to the logic of the nonconceptual in Unbounded Wholeness (2006) to epistemologies of perfection in her forthcoming, Being Human and a Buddha Too (2023).

The Construction of Orthodoxy/Orthopraxy in Tibet  | Organizers: Michael Ium, or Ngawang Sonam, 

This panel seeks to explore the construction of orthodoxy and orthopraxy in Tibet as historical processes. What are the various contexts (social, religious, historical, political) that have impacted the ways in which orthodox doctrines and correct practices have been articulated? What strategies have been employed to create, maintain, and defend these traditions? How might de-constructing these processes impact the ways in which scholars of Tibetan religion today engage in and understand their own research? 

Keep in mind that the topics in our call do not exclude other possible panel topics. So if you don’t have everything lined up just yet, you can still contact people, put out a call for your panel via listservs, etc.

The Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Unit has a Tier 2 session allotment for the current five-year term (2019-2023). This grants us two 2-hour sessions, with one additional 2-hour session for co-sponsorship.

The establishment of temples and Buddhist centers in the Tibetan diaspora (co-sponsored with Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Unit)

Consider submitting your individual paper in addition to its inclusion in a fully formed panel, if you would like your individual paper to be included for a possible “new research” session formed out of individual submissions.

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