Cluster members

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Scholars and Teachers

Emeritus Fellow of ISCA and Wolfson since 2001, studied Himalayan Anthropology particularly in the period 1967-1983. His doctoral fieldwork in eastern Nepal led to several articles and to Miyapma: Oral Traditions of the Thulung Rai (Vajra, Kathmandu, 2012). His fieldwork photos, including many from Kinnaur, are in the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Cathy Cantwell

I work on tantric ritual traditions of different periods, ancient and contemporary, with a particular focus on the development and practice of rNying ma traditions. I have studied scriptural texts of the rNying ma Tantra Collection, along with archaeologically recovered manuscripts from Dunhuang, as well as more recent practice traditions, such as Longevity Rituals from a twentieth century revelation. I have also looked at an early Bon-po Phur-pa tantra and its similarities to and differences from the rNying-ma Phur-pa tantras.

Currently, I am immersed in a project on the development of revelation texts over several generations, resulting in the contemporary Dudjom Terma tradition.

Mingji Cuomu

My research interests lie in Tibetan medicine, medical anthropology, public health and Buddhism. As a scientific researcher and practitioner of Tibetan medicine, I would suggest there is a significant overlap between Western science and Tibetan medicine, and this creates the need for correct cultural translation and dialogue. Furthermore, I feel there is much that Tibetan medicine can offer to the fields of research in many other related subjects such as Western medicine, public health and medical anthropology.

George FitzHerbert
Departmental Lecturer in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies 2008-2010, 2014-15

My primary area of research is the Tibetan Gesar epic, one of the world's few surviving and still-developing oral epic traditions which entwines chivalric, shamanic and tantric themes, and constitutes an important poetic arena of discourse on Tibetan history, culture and identity. More broadly my interests are in Tibetan cultural, religious and political history, and particularly on the development of Tibetan national-religious mythographies.

Tsering Gonkatsang

I have been teaching Tibetan language at the Oriental Institute since 2001. I served as a teacher and headmaster at the Tibetan Childrens‘ Village school in Dharamsala, India followed by higher education in the UK and ten years of teaching English at an International school in London. I am also a translator, filmographer, and a trustee of Tibet related charities.

Sondra Hausner

I am Oxford’s first University Lecturer in the Study of Religion. An anthropologist by training, I teach social and cultural theories of religion in the Faculty of Theology and Religion. My ethnographic work centres on Himalayan and South Asian religions; I won the Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Social Sciences from the American Institute of Indian Studies for my monograph Wandering with Sadhus: Ascetics in the Hindu Himalayas (IUP, 2007).

Wellcome Fellow, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology

I am a social and medical anthropologist trained at the University of Vienna, Brunel University, University College London, and at Tibet University in Lhasa.

Junior Research Fellow in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, Wolfson College

I was born and brought up in a nomadic community in Northeastern Tibet and received formal education in Tibet, India and the UK. In 2013 I completed my DPhil on Modern Tibetan Literature and the Inescapable Nation at the University of Oxford.

Robert Mayer

My interests include the early transmission of Buddhism to Tibet, the sNga dar period, the post-Imperial period, rNying ma Buddhism, and the relationships between Buddhism and Bon. I work with Dunhuang tantric manuscipts, texts from therNying ma' rgyud 'bum, rNying ma gTer ma texts, and Bon po canonical texts. As a preliminary to translating and analysing such texts for their historical information, I value the application of the technical techniques of textual scholarship as a means of evaluating the provenance and history of the surviving textual evidence.

University Lecturer in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies

I’m interested in Indian and Tibetan narrrative, in Tibetan biographies and life-writing, and in the phyi dar period, in particular the early Kadampa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. I love working with Tibetan blockprints and manuscripts as much as I love travelling in the Himalayas, and I believe that both activities combined provide the best key to understanding Tibetan history and civilisation.

Current Students

Walter Arader
DPhil Student

My primary interest is in the development, elaboration, and standardization of sngon 'gro, "preliminary practice" liturgies over time with particular attention to tshogs zhing, "field of accumulation" arrangements. Other interests lie in Himalayan bronze casting styles from the 11th-17th centuries as well as in various iconographic programs employed in Tibetan Buddhist and Bon art. When not in Oxford I spend most of my time in Boudha, Nepal or New York City. I hope to undertake a systematic analysis of the various dream practices, "yogas", or rmi lam in both Buddhist and Bon traditions sometime in the near future. 

Imola Atkins
DPhil Student

I enjoy learning new languages a lot so I was very enthusiastic – having not been totally happy with my first year undergraduate studies of ‘Philosophy and Theology’ – that I had the option to change the philosophy side of my course to ‘Oriental Studies’. I find my current course much broader and flexible and rich in all sorts of areas that previously I had no idea even existed. My studies cover a variety of areas including the Tibetan language, Buddhist philosophy and historical and social developments, a fascinating paper on the philosophical approaches mainly in Western thought to the study of Mysticism, and even my compulsory tough paper on the Gospels and Jesus (!) for my Theology course. I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed but altogether very happy to be here in Oxford!

Cameron Bailey
DPhil Student

My current DPhil research is on Zhepe Dorje Lobzang Thrinley, the fifth incarnation of the Gelug Lelung-Jedrung lineage, who has been called the "Rasputin of Tibet". I am interested in his life and works, especially his writings on protector deites, his role in discovering beyul, or "hidden lands", and his religious and political interactions with various Tibetan rulers. In addition, I am interested in Tibetan-Mongolian political and military relations from the 16th-18th centuries, Tibetan war magic during this period, the mythology of Buddhist deities (mainly dharma protectors) in general, and the history and theory of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tantra.

Lucia Galli
DPhil Student

My DPhil project is structured around the travel diary written by Kha stag 'Dzam yag, a chief merchant (tshong dpon) who left his native land in Khams and embarked on a long journey through Central and Western Tibet, Nepal and India during 1944 and 1956. Despite defining himself as a gnas bskor ba (pilgrim), the author’s attitude conveys a different impression. His narrative keeps an accurate track of offerings and donations made to monasteries and lamas, as well as travel arrangements, taxes and dangerous situations faced along the way. From an academic point of view, 'Dzam yag’s account presents us with some of the pragmatic aspects of travelling between Tibet and India in the 20th century. The diary format itself is peculiar and distinguishes 'Dzam yag’s work from the traditional pilgrimage literature.

Rachael Griffiths
MPhil Student

I’m currently halfway through my MPhil in Tibetan and Himalayan studies. My interests lie in the interaction between the Manchus and Tibetans, especially within the Qing court. My current research focuses on the patronage and place of Tibetan Buddhism within the early Qing court; observing the formalities, and varying policies enforced between 1644 and 1796. In addition, I am interested in the Qing dynasty’s promotion of printing and re-printing Buddhist texts, and the role of the early Qing emperors in supporting and collecting Tibetan art.

Yannick Laurent
DPhil Student

My research interests lie in the cultural development of early Tibetan society, the later diffusion of Buddhism, and the study of West Tibet. Former studies in Classics and concurrent training in Archaeology (MA) have instilled in me the need for an extensive collaboration between text-based information and material evidence. After several years spent with Tibetans in India, Nepal, and Tibet, I decided to continue the study of their rich and vibrant culture at an academic level (MSt).

My current doctoral research focuses on the history of Dangkhar, the ancient capital of the Spiti Valley, in the Western Himalayas. As a buffer zone between areas of diverse cultural significance and historical developments, the Spiti Valley has not yet found its legitimate place within the greater picture of Buddhist dissemination in Central and High Asia. This research receives support from a grant awarded to Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at the University of Oxford by the Tise Foundation.

Hamsa Rajan
DPhil Student

I research domestic violence in the Tibetan communities of northeastern Amdo. My work looks at household gender dynamics; individual, community, and official responses to abuse; changes over time in Tibetan women’s status; local Tibetan discourses around the topic of women’s rights; and the question of how and whether research arising primarily from Western country contexts can be relevant to the experience of family abuse in Tibetan regions and other non-Western settings.  My work is located in the arenas of women’s studies, social policy, Tibetan studies, and sociology.

Prior to starting my PhD, I worked in the fields of public health and education both in Nanjing, China and in Tibetan areas of Qinghai province for a number of years.  I have also worked for the World Health Organization as a gender and health consultant.

In the future, I plan to continue with research and advocacy work around the topic of gender inequity in Tibetan areas. 

Anna Sehnalova
DPhil Student

Interest in religions and languages, anthropology, Asian Jewish Diaspora, biology, ecology, and travelling has led me to Tibet. Since my first visit long time ago, and later living for two years in the region, I have never stopped returning.

I am most fascinated by people’s reflections of the environment and nature, wild plants and animals, the ways of understanding them and approaching them through religion, ritual, literary expressions and oral traditions.

Recently, I have observed and studied the healing Mendrub (སྨན་སྒྲུབ། sman sgrub) ritual as performed at the Bonpo Triten Norbutse monastery, Kathmandu in December 2012. Analysing its complexity, I touch upon traditional Tibetan medicine, botany and species’ classification. In the near future I hope to explore the significance and various roles of Amnye Machen (ཨ་མྱེས་རྨ་ཆེན། a myes rma chen) mountain and its deity Machen Pomra (རྨ་ཆེན་སྦོམ་ར། rma chen sbom ra) in different contexts of Tibetan culture throughout its history, from myths, local ritual, Bon and Buddhist practices up to the present secularised reflections.

Associate Members

Lelung Tulku (Ruislip/London)

I completed my Buddhist philosophy studies at Loseling College of Drepung University India, becoming Geshe Tsorampa in 2004. Then I studied Tantra at Tantra College of Gyuto Monastery. My current work is focused on the publication of the 46 volumes of my predecessor the 5th Lelung. I have undertaken the responsibility to preserve this tradition by giving teachings and talks in monasteries and universities in the East and West. In 2006 I founded the Geden Phacho Bhucho Preservation Centre in India and have since organised passing on the oral transmissions of many rare teachings to the younger generation. These teachings were held by great teachers and it is vital to preserve them before we lose them completely. I am continuously engaged in researching and finding rare Buddhist texts and their oral transmissions, oral commentaries, rituals and empowerment lineages. I also give teachings on Buddhist philosophy to general, academic, and practitioner level students in the East and West in an effort to bring happiness to all.

Current students

Anna Sehnalova

Interest in religions and languages, anthropology, Asian Jewish Diaspora, biology, ecology, and travelling has led me to Tibet. Since my first visit long time ago, and later living for two years in the region, I have never stopped returning.

I am most fascinated by people’s reflections of the environment and nature, wild plants and animals, the ways of understanding them and approaching them through religion, ritual, literary expressions and oral traditions.

Recently, I have observed and studied the healing Mendrub (སྨན་སྒྲུབ། sman sgrub) ritual as performed at the Bonpo Triten Norbutse monastery, Kathmandu in December 2012. Analysing its complexity, I touch upon traditional Tibetan medicine, botany and species’ classification. In the near future I hope to explore the significance and various roles of Amnye Machen (ཨ་མྱེས་རྨ་ཆེན། a myes rma chen) mountain and its deity Machen Pomra (རྨ་ཆེན་སྦོམ་ར། rma chen sbom ra) in different contexts of Tibetan culture throughout its history, from myths, local ritual, Bon and Buddhist practices up to the present secularised reflections.

Sangseraima Ujeed

I am a D.Phil student in the department of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies. My D.Phil project aims to gain insight into the development of Buddhism in Tibet through a closer examination of the thob yig (records of teachings received) of Za-ya Paṇḍita bLo-bzang 'phrin-las (1642-1715) with emphasis on the various forms of doctrinal and historical materials embedded within it.

The analysis of past religio-cultural constellations of Buddhism in Tibet during the 17th century will contribute to the understanding of how it was and how it has been adapting and developing today after its expulsion from its original setting and encounter with the west. I hope to use the relevant sources in Tibetan and Mongolian as well as some Sanskrit and Chinese sources to demonstrate the richness of religio-political and religio-historical material of gsan yigs and how these materials can be employed to create a working map of the complicated web of lineages of that are essentially the building blocks of Tibetan Buddhism.


Imogen Clark

I'm a DPhil student in Anthropology. My interests lie primarily in Material Anthropology, Museum Studies, the Anthropology of Tibet and the Himalayas and Diaspora Studies. In the past I've worked on the representation of Tibetan culture in UK and US museums (something I hope to return to in the future). Currently, I am conducting ethnographic fieldwork in the Tibetan refugee settlements of India. My research focuses on the material expression of Tibetan identity in exile and investigates how Tibetan refugees have used material culture to physically and socially re-construct 'Tibet' in a foreign landscape.

Isabelle Crossley

I have done an undergraduate degree in Japanese and Tibetan and have focused on links between Japan and Tibet through Buddhism, in particular through Ekai Kawaguchi, the first Japanese to enter Tibet. After graduation I will continue studying Tibetan language and Buddhism in Nepal.

Amelia Hall

My research focuses on the historical reasons for the migration of Tibetan Buddhism into South Asia and Northeast India. This involves documenting primary sources and material evidence relating to the spread of Buddhism from Tibet and Bhutan to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Also of interest are the implications of centuries old debates surrounding lineage, transmission and ‘authenticity’. I have particular interest in the translation, preservation, and digitisation of historical Tibetan texts.

Tim Myatt

I hold an MPhil (2010) and DPhil (2012) in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies. The primary focus of my research is Anglo-Tibetan relations 1860-1914, focusing on the Younghusband Mission to Tibet of 1904. I first became interested in Tibetan history and culture while teaching English at Dip Tse Chok Ling Monastery in Dharamsala in 1998. I have conducted field research in Zangskar, Mustang, Tibet, Sikkim, and India, as well as Western archives. In 2007 I co-founded the International Seminar of Young Tibetologsists, and hosted the first conference in London. I served as Secretary General of ISYT from 2007-2012, and edited the proceedings of both the London and Paris Seminars. I am a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, The Royal Society for Asian Affairs, The Royal Asiatic Society, and an Associate Member of Christ Church College. A full list of my publications can be found here.

Emmi Okada

My initial interest in the Tibetans sprang from my studies on the relationship between Buddhism and nonviolence. That research has taken me to case studies on the Vietnamese Buddhist nonviolent movement during the 1960s, a Japanese Nichiren Buddhist group called Nipponzan Myohoji, and to the Tibetan exile community in Dharamsala, which I visited in 2005 and 2012. Currently, in the field of Development Studies, I am working on a thesis on the secularisation of the Tibetan exile polity, looking at how a distinct Tibetan ideology of secularism is being constructed by the exile leadership.

Tenzin Seldon

As a Tibetan born and raised in India, I have developed a deep-rooted interest in studying, experiencing, and understanding the Tibetan diaspora. As such, I have explored Tibet and refugee-lived experience in my coursework at my undergraduate, Stanford University and now at Oxford University in Comparative Social Policy.

More broadly, I study welfare economy, poverty, and international law but plan on honing my Masters thesis on international and domestic educational policy, focusing on its impact on youth relations and transnational identity among displaced people. In the near future, I plan on pursuing a DPhil in Social Policy or Sociology and shaping domestic and international policy.

Irina Sodnomova

Title of M.Phil. thesis: "Iconography of Buddha Amitabha".

26 November 2015

We have just passed the halfway point for the Development Office’s campaign to capture memories of Wolfson and raise funds for...

Marc Ventresca at the OUSU awards
25 November 2015

Several Wolfsonians were honoured at the University...

Prof Roger Bagnall. Credit John Cairns
19 November 2015

On Thursday 12 November, Professor Roger Bagnall delivered the annual Ronald Syme Lecture entitled ‘The councillor​ and the clerk’.