Annual Aris Lectures

The Annual Aris Lectures were created in 2015 to celebrate Michael and Anthony Aris and their contributions to Tibetan and Himalayan Studies. 






The lectures take place in Michaelmas Term. We are tremendously grateful to all those who have helped to make these lectures possible.

Written versions of the lectures can be downloaded below. Disclaimer: The contents of the lectures does not necessarily represent the opinions of the Tibetan and Himalayan Studies Centre or Wolfson College.

1. Inaugural Aris Lecture, 22 October 2015, 5:30pm, LWA:

Prof. Per Kvaerne (University of Oslo): Presentation of Michael and Anthony Aris

Prof. Janet Gyatso (Harvard University): Beyond Representation and Identity: Opening Ways for Tibetan Studies (original title: Tibetan Studies and its Possible Futures)

This lecture presents methodological reflections on the way scholars of Tibetan Studies approach their subject, and the possible pitfalls of reductionism, functionalism, and culturalism in the discourse on Tibetan civilization. It also introduces some aspects of Janet Gyatso's recent book Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet (2015).

2. Second Aris Lecture, 1 December 2016, 5:30pm, LWA:

Prof. Charles Ramble (EPHE, Paris): Social History and Vampires: the Dark Continents of Tibetan Studies.

A well-known theme in Tibetan literature depicts the land as an area of benighted savagery, peopled by red-faced flesh-eating demons and an even larger population of malign autochthonous powers; the civilising power of Buddhism tamed the humans and their gods, and transformed the land into a fitting receptacle for the Good Law. Almost a thousand years after it was formulated, this story not only continues to provide a prism through which Tibetans view their own history, but it also influences research on Tibet in subtle but significant ways. This talk will support the case for looking beyond the dominant narrative to discern elements that might form the composition of a very different picture.

Prof. Charles Ramble is Directeur d'études at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (Sorbonne). He was the first to teach Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at the University of Oxford from 2000 until 2010.

3. Third Aris Lecture, 16 November 2017, 6:00pm, LWA:

Prof. em. Per Kvaerne (University of Oslo): "Teach me how to be Gesar's Daughter" - Voices of young Tibetan intellectuals in the diaspora.

The young generation of the Tibetan diaspora in India has a high level of education, with many attending universities or colleges. At the same time, well-educated young Tibetans face a number of existential as well as practical difficulties linked to their life as stateless refugees. While monastic communities in exile have received considerable attention from scholars, little focus has been placed on young lay Tibetans in recent years, in spite of a situation of rapid social change and mounting expectations as well as frustrations in this section of the Tibetan diaspora community in India. This year's Aris Lecture will explore some of these issues as expressed by a young Tibetan poet, Tenzin Kesang, through a selection of her recent poems.

4. Fourth Aris Lecture, 15 November 2018, 6:15pm, LWA:

Dr Sam van Schaik (British Library): Magic, Healing, and Ethics in Tibetan Buddhism

Books of spells are a constant but little studied aspect of Tibetan Buddhism. Used by lay people as well as monks and nuns, they contain a variety of rituals covering divination, healing and protection, making rain and stopping hail, and summoning and exorcising spirits and demons. Some books of spells contain other kinds of spells as well, such as to make someone fall in love, or to gain powers of clairvoyance, invisibility, and finding hidden treasure. Some, but not all books of spells contain aggressive spells -- what we commonly call 'black magic'. This talk looks at the role of books of spells in Tibetan Buddhism, and how the use of magic fits within the Buddhist ethical framework.

5. Fifth Aris Lecture, 5 December 2019, 6pm, LWA

Dr Diana Lange (Humboldt University, Berlin): A Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Tibetan World: Reading Illustrated Mid-19th Century Maps of Tibet.

In 1857 a Tibetan lama was engaged by William Edmund Hay, Assistant Commissioner in the Western Himalayas, to create what later became known as the “Wise Collection” in the British Library. The lama produced the first extant map made by an indigenous map-maker that shows the whole panorama of Tibet, accompanied by numerous drawings of places, buildings, and local customs. The maps and drawings reveal the lama’s complex and in-depth knowledge of Tibet, while at the same time providing a nuanced interpretation of Tibet by an "insider" for an "outsider". When Diana Lange started her research on the Wise Collection in 2009 she followed in giant footsteps—those of Michael Aris, who worked on the collection before his death in 1999. This lecture presents the results of “reading” and analysing the illustrated maps and introduces some aspects of Diana Lange’s forthcoming book An Atlas of the Himalayas by a 19th Century Tibetan Lama. A Journey of Discovery.

Diana Lange, Ph.D. (2008), is a Research Associate at the Humboldt University Berlin. She works in Area Studies with a focus on Tibet and the Himalayas and specialises in the history of knowledge and exploration, material and visual cultures, and cultural interactions.