Decolonial/Anti-Racist interventions in Tibetan/Buddhist Studies – AAR Roundtable, Colorado 2019

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Natalie Avalos
Matthew King
Nancy G. Lin
Dawa Lokyitsang
Karin Meyers
Annabella Pitkin
Sangseraima Ujeed
Riga Shakya


This roundtable session held at the 2019 meeting of the American Association of Religious Studies explores how decolonial analytics and praxis can be applied productively in Tibetan/Buddhist Studies. As scholars, it is critical for us to consider how the racialized perceptions of non-Western religious traditions and peoples are tethered to their continued structural dispossession. A decolonizing intervention here means making the material hierarchies among peoples and their knowledge systems legible but also interrogating the politics of knowledge production in light of these overlapping colonial histories. Our discussion explicitly explores how our choices as scholars have effects in the real world, including how we represent Tibet and the Himalayas/Buddhism in our publications and teaching, the current inequalities of access to academic capital for Tibetan and nonwhite students/scholars, etc. We draw from Indigenous Studies approaches that center Indigenous knowledges and voices, given the history of their marginalization and ask how can we better center Tibetan/Himalayan voices/epistemologies in the study of Tibetan Buddhism.

Author Biographies

Natalie Avalos, University of Colorado Boulder

Natalie Avalos is an assistant professor in the Ethnic Studies department at University of Colorado Boulder. She is an ethnographer of religion who received her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a special focus on Native American and Indigenous Religious Traditions and Tibetan Buddhism. She is currently working on her manuscript titled The Metaphysics of Decoloniality: Transnational Indigeneities and Religious Refusal, which explores urban Indian and Tibetan refugee religious life as decolonial praxis. She is a Chicana of Apache descent, born and raised in the Bay Area. 

Matthew King, University of California, Riverside

Matthew King is Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Director of Asian Studies at the University of California, Riverside. He is the author of Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood: A Mongolian Monk in the Ruins of the Qing Empire (Columbia University Press, 2019).

Nancy G. Lin, University of California, Berkeley

Nancy G. Lin is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Buddhist Studies, University of California, Berkeley. 

Dawa Lokyitsang, University of Colorado Boulder

Dawa Lokyitsang is a PhD student in Cultural Anthropology, works mostly with the Diaspora Tibetan exile community. Dawa's research interests include questions of citizenship, refugee subjectivity, and imagined communities created through trans-national spaces online.

Karin Meyers, Rangjung Yeshe Insitute

Karin is Associate Professor at the Rangjung Yeshe Insitute. She was born in the United States and was first introduced to the academic study of Buddhism as an undergraduate at Hampshire College. At that time she had the opportunity to study abroad at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath and the Buddhist School of Dialects in Dharamsala, India. After college, she worked at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship in Berkeley, CA before entering graduate school at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where she completed her PhD in 2010. She is pleased to have the opportunity to continue her studies in Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan and Sanskrit with Tibetan and Nepali scholars while teaching in the BA and MA programs at RYI's Centre for Buddhist Studies.

Annabella Pitkin, Lehigh University

Annabella Pitkin is Assistant Professor of Buddhism and East Asian Religions at Lehigh University. She
researches and writes about Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhism, history and literature, focusing
on themes of modernity, renunciation, and yogic display.

Sangseraima Ujeed, University of Michigan

Sangseraima Ujeed is Assistant Professor of Tibetan Buddhism at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She received her MSt and DPhil degrees in Oriental Studies from the Department of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford. Her main research focus is the trans-national aspect of Buddhism in Tibet and Mongolia in the pre-modern period, with a particular emphasis on the contributions made by ethnically Mongolian monk scholars.

Riga Shakya, Columbia University

Riga Shakya is a Ph.D candidate in late Imperial Chinese and Tibetan history at the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALAC) at Columbia University. 

His dissertation research interrogates the relationship between literature, history and empire by exploring the role of Tibetan lay autobiographical practice and kavya literature in Qing imperial expansion into Inner Asia in the 18th century. Other projects include a longue durée history of the Ganden Podrang’s (1642-1959) management of environmental disaster and a study of Tibetan language standardization and print culture at PRC minority publishing houses (minzu chubanshe) between 1953 and 1966. He is founding editor of Waxing Moon: Journal for Tibetan and Himalayan Studies supported by the Centre for Digital Research and Scholarship, Columbia Libraries. 

Article Details

Conference Reports
How to Cite
Avalos, N. ., King, M., Lin, N. G., Lokyitsang, D., Meyers, K. ., Pitkin, A. ., Ujeed, S., & Shakya, R. (2020). Decolonial/Anti-Racist interventions in Tibetan/Buddhist Studies – AAR Roundtable, Colorado 2019. Waxing Moon, 1.