Researchers and Teaching Staff

Nicholas Allen

Emeritus Fellow

Emeritus Fellow of ISCA and Wolfson since 2001, Nicholas Allen 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). Allen’s 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 particularfocus 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.

I am currently completing the main project book from our Oxford research project on the development of revelation texts over several generations, resulting in the contemporary Dudjomgter-ma tradition. The book has been announced by Equinox:

I am also involved in a research project (2027-2019) at the University of Bochum, on the revelations of the twelfth century Nyang-ral Nyi-ma ‘od zer, and his formative role in codifying the rNying ma heritage.

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).

Theresia Hofer

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. I have carried out graduate and doctoral research on rural primary health care,Tibetan medicine and memories of Communist reforms in Central Tibet, after which I worked as curator of the Bodies in Balance – The Art of Tibetan Medicine exhibition in New York and held a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Oslo, working on gender and healthcare in Tibet. My current work studies the newly emergent Lhasa-variant of Tibetan Sign Language (TSL) and explores issues of embodiment, deaf identity, language ideologies, and signifying embodied movement.

Lama Jabb

Instructor in Tibetan (Faculty of Oriental Studies) and Head of Tibetan and Himalayan Research Cluster (Wolfson College)

Dr Lama Jabb completed his DPhil on Modern Tibetan Literature and the Inescapable Nation at Oxford in 2003. He is fascinated by the ways in which both the past and living traditions shape contemporary Tibet. He explores the intertextual nature of Tibetan literature by, among other things, examining the complex interplay between the Tibetan literary text and oral traditions. Lama Jabb also has a keen interest in the theory and practice of translation, produces his own original translations, and writes Tibetan poems.

Robert Mayer

University Research Lecturer

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. Iwork with Dunhuang tantric manuscipts, texts from the rNying ma’ rgyud ‘bum, rNying ma gter ma texts, and Bon po canonical texts. I sometimes use textual criticism to clarify the transmissional history of the surviving textual evidence. More recently, I have worked on Padmasambhava in early sources, andon the early gter ma traditions. I work closely with my wife,  Cathy Cantwell.

Fernanda Pirie

Professor of the Anthropology of Law, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies

I am an anthropologist and have spent much of my research time studying contemporary practices of dispute resolution in both Ladakh and Amdo. This has led to writing on order and disorder, state-society relations, and local religion in Tibetan societies. The discovery of a legal text among the nomads of Amdo took my research into the realm of legalism, a topic I have developed in comparative perspective with fellow historians and anthropologists. Recently, I have turned to legal history, starting with legal ideology in Tibet’s medieval period, in a project funded by the AHRC.

Ulrike Roesler

Professor of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies

With a background in Indian Studies and Tibetan Studies, I am interested in the Indo-Tibetan literary interface and in Tibetan travelogues and biographical writing. I have also done research on the early Kadampa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and their creation of sacred geography. I am a founding member of the Tibetan and Himalayan Studies Centre. For a full publication list see:

Click to access Publications%20Roesler%202016.pdf

Jonathan Samuels

Dr Jonathan Samuels received his DPhil in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford in 2014.He was formerly a monk, in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and after many years of study in monasteries in Tibetan refugee communities within India, he received the scholastic degree of geshe. His research falls into two main areas: Tibetan religion – especially aspects of monastic tradition and Indo-Tibetan philosophy – and the anthropology of the Himalayan region – for his DPhil he worked with the Tamang ethnic group in Nepal – with particular focus on the historical dimension to kinship studies.

His current research project investigates Tibetan medieval monastic education, giving special attention to the institution of public religious debate. In addition, he is preparing two books for publication, an edited volume on Tibetan kinship and a translation of texts from the Tibetan Buddhist logico-epistemological tradition. He is also responsible for coordinating activities relating to the Tibetan and Himalayan Studies Research Cluster at Wolfson.

Former Members

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.

Franz Xaver Erhard

Departmental Lecturer in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies (current)

Erhard has studied Tibetan language, literature and culture at Humboldt University, Berlin and Tibet University, Lhasa. In 2015 he competed his doctoral dissertation on Writing Tibet. Strategies of Literary Emancipation and New Tibetan Literature at Leipzig University. Currently Erhard’s research interests lie with early modern Tibetan literature, particularly with the development of secular life writing in the 17th and 18th century.

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, shamanicand 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

Tsering Gonkatsang taught Tibetan language at the Oriental Institute from 2001 until his tragic death in 2018. He had served as a teacher and as headmaster at the Tibetan Childrens’ Village school in Dharamsala, India. Subsequently he pursued higher education in the UK and taught English at an international school in London for ten years. He was also a translator, filmographer, and a trustee of Tibetan-related charities.

Current Students

Rachael Griffiths

DPhil Student

My current DPhil research focuses on the autobiography of Sum pa mkhanpo Ye shes dpal ‘byor (1704-1788), a prodigious writer, historian, and powerful religious figure of eighteenth century Tibet. I am particularly interested in his religious and political interactions with key figures of the period, which I believe demonstrates Qing cosmopolitanism at grass-root level. In addition, I am interested in the Qing dynasty’s promotion of printing and re-printing Buddhist texts, and life writing in the 18th and 19th century.

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.

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) indifferent contexts of Tibetan culture throughout its history, from myths, local ritual, Bon and Buddhist practices up to the present secularised reflections.

Darig Thokmay

Darig Thokmay aka Kunsang Thokmay was born in Tibet and undertook traditional studies at monasteries in Amdo, Tibet. Then, he was forced to leave the country and has since been stateless. He has travelled and studied at a number of universities around the world.

He is currently working on D.Phil. research, focusing on social, cultural and political relations between Tibet, the Manchu and the Mongols in the early 18th Century.

Güzin Yener

DPhil student

Güzin was born and raised in Istanbul where she obtained her BA in Psychology and Comparative Literature and an MA in Cultural Studies (thesis on the construction of the self in Tibetan Buddhist and Western psychological traditions). Working as a psychotherapist in Turkey and reading for a second MA degree in Forensic Sciences and Psychology she continued training in different psychotherapy techniques,and then has worked as a psychotherapist and mental healthcare expert in Turkey, India, and Egypt, collaborating with government and NGO projects.

Living in different regions of India for nearly a decade Güzin became interested in experiential aspects of Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist yogic traditions and their philosophical and ritual practices. After attending a Tibetan Translator Training programme in Dharamsala, Güzin collaborated in translation projects with Dr. Alexander Berzin, becoming a translator for the Turkish section of his online Buddhist archives. She continued to live in Dharamsala where she concentrated on studying Tibetan Buddhist meditation and ritual. In 2014-2015 Güzin pursued an MSt degree in Oriental Studies (Tibetan Studies) at the University of Oxford,focusing on the early historical roots of the Tibetan State Oracle tradition and its protector deity Pehar. She is currently reading for her DPhil in Tibetan Buddhism (Theology and Religion) at Wolfson College, concentrating on the ritual practices of the Tantric female deities Lotus Dakini and Kurukulle associated with magic and magnetizing.

Güzin leads a weekly university-wide session in the methods of Mindfulness and Tibetan Buddhist meditation at Wolfson College.

 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.

Jeff Watt

Jeff Watt is a leading scholar and curator of Tibetan and Himalayan art, and well known translator of Tibetan texts. Since 1998 he has been the Director and Chief Curator of the Himalayan Art Resources (HAR) website, probably the most comprehensive on-line resource for Himalayan art and iconography that features thousands of artworks from Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and Mongolia with a catalogue of over 60,000 images.From October 1999 until October 2007 Jeff Watt was also the founding Curator and leading scholar at the Rubin Museum of Art (RMA) in New York City which houses one of the largest collections of Himalayan and Tibetan art in North America.

Profiles of some former students

Walter Arader

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

I’m currently studying for my undergraduate degree in Theology and Oriental Studies.  As part of my course I chose Tibetan and am learning both the spoken and literary language. For my dissertation I look at the symbolism of water in Buddhism as a phenomenological study.

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.

Cameron Bailey

Mycurrent 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.

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 ChokLing 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.

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