Author Biography

Holly Gayley is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her current research explores the revitalization of Buddhism in Tibetan areas of the PRC and a new ethical reform movement spawned by cleric-scholars at Larung Buddhist Academy in Serta. Her recent publications on the topic include: Reimagining Buddhist Ethics on the Tibetan Plateau (Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 2013) and The Ethics of Cultural Survival: A Buddhist Vision of Progress in Mkhan po ‘Jigs phun’s Advice to Tibetans of the 21st Century in Mapping the Modern in Tibet, edited by Gray Tuttle, (International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, 2011).

Nicole Willock is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where she teaches on Buddhism and World Religions. Her research explores the complex relationships between state-driven secularization, religious practice, and literature in 20th century Tibet and China. Her publications include The Revival of the Tulku Institution in Modern China in Reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism: Birth-Narratives, Institutional Innovation, and Embodiment of Divine Power, edited by Derek Maher and Tsering Wangchuk (Boston: Wisdom Publications, forthcoming) and Tibetan Monastic Scholars and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in Re-remembered Meetings: Post-Mao Retellings of Early Tibetan Encounters with the Chinese Communist Party, edited by Robbie Barnett, Francoise Robin and Benno Weiner (Leiden: Brill Publications, forthcoming).


This special issue on ‘The Secular in Tibetan Cultural Worlds’ originated in a panel on The Secular in Tibet and Mongolia at the Thirteenth Seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in 2013. To contextualize the contributions to this issue, spanning diverse temporal and geographic contexts, this Introduction raises theoretical concerns and discusses contested terminology regarding ‘religion’ and the ‘secular’ in Tibetan discourse. The authors situate local articulations of the secular within broader academic discussions of the varieties of Asian secularisms and offer a key intervention to complicate the secularization thesis and prevailing views of Tibet as a predominantly religious culture.

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