Flavio Geisshuesler

Advisors: David Germano and Kurtis Schaeffer
Year Entered Program: 2010
Currently Pursuing: MA – PhD
Current Status: Coursework
Educational Background: Université de Lausanne

Research Interest

If we met in an elevator, I would tell you between floors that I study ritual practices and their relation to issues of power and identity in Tibetan and Jewish minority communities in the Southern Himalayas.

If the elevator got stuck for a while, I would then tell you that my intellectual activity in the field of religious studies is characterized by three traits:

First, a commitment to epistemologically self-reflexive scholarship. As a result of my studies at the University of Lausanne, where I received a classical training as a historian of religion, I have come to belief that the conscientious confrontation with the “other” must entail critical reflection on our own analytic categories. Being particularly drawn to the Roman School of History of Religion, I have spent the last few years finding innovative ways to contextualize Ernesto De Martino’s historicist epistemology, developed in his work on Italian folklore and magic, within contemporary approaches to religion.

Second, a proclivity for anthropological questions and modes of analysis. From such a perspective, religion is not conceived as a phenomenon existing sui generis but rather as a Maussian fait social total, embedded within a complex array of cultural processes in fieri. Aspiring to broach the classical “nature vs. culture” binarism from a different angle, I walk the line between nomothetic and idiographic philosophical convictions in an attempt to elucidate the space between universal human concerns and particular historico-cultural circumstances.

Third, an interest in comparative studies of ritual. During my time at the University of Virginia, I have become particularly fascinated by issues of power and identity in the cultural area of the Southern Himalayas. Relying on my training in both Buddhist and Jewish traditions, I hope to dedicate my next few years to the exploration of Jewish and Tibetan minority communities of Nepal and Northern India. While the wider context of this analysis is engaging the contemporary debates on “transculturation,” my research will pay particular attention to ritual practices and their role in identity formation.