Spring 2018 Events:

Each semester the UVA Tibet Center hosts several internationally renown scholars, researchers, organizers, and other experts to speak on Tibet’s past, present, and future. Additional Tibet- and Himalaya-related events from around the university are also posted here.


Going West and Going Out: Discourses, Migrants, and Models in Chinese Development

Talk by Emily Yeh

Wednesday, February 14th, McLeod Hall 1004, 4:00-5:30pm

Image by Jan Reurink, 2008, available through Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0)

In 1999, China announced the launching of the Open up the West campaign, sometimes called “Go West,” to help western China finally catch up to the much wealthier eastern, coastal areas after several decades of lagging behind. The same year, China also announced a “Go Out” strategy, to encourage Chinese investment abroad. The fifteen years since then have witnessed dramatic Chinese government investment in various development activities in western regions of China, as well as around the world. Though rarely considered together, I will argue in this talk that there are significant parallels, in development discourse, the centrality of physical infrastructure, the characteristics of Chinese labor migration and the nature of migrant-local relations, and the application of “models from elsewhere” in Go West and Go Out. Considering these parallels can help shed light on Chinese development discourse and practice, as China becomes increasingly important in the field of development once dominated by Western countries. Finally, I will briefly consider direct connections and convergences between the two strategies in China’s neighboring countries of Asia and in the One Belt One Road initiative.

Emily T. Yeh is a professor and department chair of Geography at the University of Colorado Boulder. She conducts research on development and nature-society relations in Tibetan parts of the PRC, including the political ecology of pastoralism, conflicts over access to natural resources, vulnerability of Tibetan herders to climate change, indigenous knowledge of climate change, the relationship between ideologies of nature and nation, transnational environmentalism, and emerging environmental subjectivities. Her publications include Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development, and the co-edited volumes Mapping Shangrila: Contested Landscapes in the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands, and Rural Politics in Contemporary China.


Buddha’s Picnic: Shrines in Contemporary Tibet

A Public Talk by Contemporary Artist Gonkar Gyatso

Monday, February 19th, Nau Hall 101, 5:30-7:00pm

Detail of “Buddha’s Picnic” installation at Washington & Lee Staniar Gallery, courtesy of the artist.

Gonkar Gyatso will discuss his installation “Buddha’s Picnic,” currently on view at Washington and Lee’s Staniar Gallery. In his words, “a material and experiential journey into the modern practice of constructing temporary shrines, reflecting the infusion of pop and material culture from China and the West into countryside shrines throughout Tibetan areas, with neon lamps, electric prayer wheels, and glowing Buddhas making regular appearances. These unconventional choices reflect an informal tradition of incorporating objects and materials that are indicative of an organic display of sincere faith in as much as it reflects a joyful expression of devotion and identity.”

Born in Lhasa during the Cultural Revolution and trained in traditional painting in Beijing and Dharamsala during the 80’s and 90’s, Gyatso’s unique blend of classical training and modern experience fuels his art with a perspective and sensitivity that provides us with poignant glimpses into his views on humanity, human rights and hegemony. Gyatso has been exhibited internationally, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City), Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), and the Chinese National Art Gallery (Beijing), among many others. His installations have been featured at the 53rd Venice Biennale (Italy), the 6th Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane (Australia), Art Basel Encounters, and the 17th Sydney Biennale.

This Tibet Center event is supported through the generous support of the Weedon Foundation and co-sponsored by the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion.


“Secular and Political Mural Art from Himalayan Lands: Sikkim, Nepal, and Bhutan”

A Lecture by Historian John Ardussi

Friday, March 30th, Monroe Hall 124, 3:15-5:00pm

Students of Himalayan cultures will be familiar with the many forms of Buddhist and Hindu art, whose primary focus is the portrayal of saints, deities and meditative objects such as the mandala.  In recent decades, influenced by modernity and globalizing culture, there have arisen forms of mural art focused on socio-political themes. In this lecture I will cover three very different examples from Sikkim, Nepal, and Bhutan. We will examine the work of emerging artists from these countries, discussing the origin of their distinctive visual iconographies and the international political milieu in which they are connected in terms of relationships with China, Tibet, and India.

Dr. John A. Ardussi is a private scholar and senior research fellow at the University of Virginia, Religious Studies Dept.  He received his PhD (1977) in Asian Civilizations from Australian National University with a thesis on the history of Bhutan. His research focuses on 16th century – recent Himalayan history, culture and economics. He has written extensively on Bhutan and Tibetan studies.

Co-sponsored by the East Asia Center and the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion.


Lecture by Bhutanese Scholar Karma Phuntsho

Thursday, March 29th (Time & Location TBC)

(Dr) Lopen Karma Phuntsho is the Director for Shejun Agency for Bhutan’s Cultural Documentation and Research. He was a Research Associate at Department of Social Anthropology and Spalding Fellow for Comparative Religions at Clare Hall, Cambridge University and a researcher at CNRS, Paris. Dr Phuntsho finished full Tibetan Buddhist monastic training in Bhutan and India before he joined Balliol College, Oxford to read Sanskrit and Classical Indian Religions. He received a D.Phil. in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford. He was also a visiting fellow at Harvard, a lecturer at Ngayur Nyingma Institute, Mysore and acting abbot of Shugbseb Nunnery, Dharamsala before he joined Oxford.

Dr Phuntsho’s earlier works were in Buddhist philosophy, epistemology, Tibetan language and religion. His current researches focus on Bhutanese historiography, socio-cultural changes in Bhutan and intervention through education, books and manuscripts in the Buddhist Himalaya and the exploration and preservation of Bhutan’s cultural heritage. He is a leading expert on Bhutan and the author of several books and numerous articles. He founded the Loden Foundation, a charity to promote education and entrepreneurship in Bhutan.

He is the author of the books Mipham’s Dialectics and the Debates on Emptiness: To Be, Not to Be Or Neither (2005), History of Bhutan (2013) and The Autobiogrpahy of Terton Pema Lingpa (2015), among others.