Author Biography

Barbara Gerke (D.Phil., M.Sc., University of Oxford) is a social and medical anthropologist currently leading a three-year FWF (Austrian Science Fund) project (2018–2021) on ‘Potent Substances in Sowa Rigpa and Buddhist Ritual’ at the University of Vienna, where she also held a Lise- Meitner senior research fellowship (2015-2018) researching biographies of Tibetan precious pills. She is the author of Long Lives and Untimely Deaths: Life-Span Concepts and Longevity Practices among Tibetans in the Darjeeling Hills, India (Brill 2012) and Taming the Poisonous: Mercury, Toxicity and Safety in Tibetan Medical Practice (Heidelberg University Publishing, forthcoming).

Jan M. A. van der Valk (PhD, Anthropology, University of Kent, 2017) is an anthropologist and ethnobotanist. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the multidisciplinary project ‘Potent Substances in Sowa Rigpa and Buddhist Ritual’ (2018-2021) at University of Vienna’s Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies. Van der Valk’s doctoral thesis traces the techno-scientific transformations of Tibetan medicines from plant to pill, forging links between two key manufacturers, in India and Switzerland respectively. He is a student of Dr. Pasang Yonten Arya since 2012, and opened the first Tibetan medical (herbal) practice in Belgium (


Introduction to themed research articles on Approaching Potent Substances in Medicine and Ritual across Asia.


Grant P30804-G24 (2018-2021), funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). The authors acknowledge support from this grant for writing this Introduction, for co-authoring the Introduction to the Art Gallery, and for editing this special issue.

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