Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Lecturer, Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2012
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Duke University
Politics of Tranquility: The Religious Practice of Tibetan Buddhist Nuns in Western China

This project examines the political implications of the relations between the Chinese state and Tibetan Buddhism in the context of the unprecedented religious mobility of young Tibetan nuns in western China since the 1980s. In contrast to the recent migratory trend of young women who travel to work in factories, thousands of Tibetan girls have congregated in an isolated monastery called Yachen to practice Buddhism. By drawing on ethnographic research on the nuns’ tranquil practices in this monastery, I will show how tranquility, as a means of caring for the self and for others, plays a role not only in mobilizing and bonding the nuns in a spiritual collective but also in challenging the state authority by inviting global attention through media networks. My project seeks to understand the hidden political meanings of apolitical actions, which I call “the politics of tranquility,” practiced by a large number of young Tibetan nuns in a highly politicized region. By addressing religious tranquility as a movement, my project complements and complicates anthropological studies on the relation between religion and the state in Asian contexts, and it also contributes a new understanding of what constitutes “the political.”