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Department of Social Anthropology



I am the Research Director of Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit (MIASU) at University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Pembroke College. I trained as a social anthropologist and Tibetologist at Vienna University, and have published numerous books and articles on the anthropology and the history of Tibet and the Himalaya as well as on the Tibetan-Mongolian interface, including the monograph When a Woman becomes a Religious Dynasty: the Samding Dorje Phagmo of Tibet (Columbia University Press 2007), the edited volume Tibetan Printing – Comparisons, Continuities and Change (Brill 2016) and the edited volume “Cosmopolitical Ecologies across Asia. Places of Power in Changing Environments (Routledge 2021).

I have designed and coordinated a number of research projects funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the Newton Trust, the Austrian Science Fund, the Italian National Research Council and The Research Council of Norway. Currently I head up (together with Norway PI Hanna Havnevik and UK Co-I Bhaskar Vira) the interdisciplinary research project “Himalayan Connections: Melting glaciers, sacred landscapes and mobile technologies in a Changing Climate” (a cooperation between the University of Cambridge and Oslo University).  Furthermore, I have coordinated collaboration with academic institutions in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Mongolia, Bhutan, and Nepal.


Tibetan cultural area and Tibet-Mongolia interface; local-state dynamics and deals with the impact of radical change on traditional communities; landscape, space and time; local history and memory; changing notions of power and kinship; gender; environment; books as literary artefacts and debates over continuity, tradition and modernity.

Research Projects

2018-2022:  Co-PI, Research Project “Himalayan connections: melting glaciers, sacred landscapes and mobile technologies in a changing climate” funded by the Research Council of Norway (cooperation between the University of Cambridge and Oslo University).

2010-2015:  Co-Investigator and Senior Research Associate, AHRC Research Project “Transforming Technologies and Buddhist Book Culture: the Introduction of Printing and Digital Text Reproduction in Tibetan Societies.

2010-2011:  Founding member of the research network “Climate Histories: Communicating Cultural Knowledge of Environmental Change” supported by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and hosted by the University of Cambridge.

2012-2015:  Co-Investigator, Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) Grant on Communicating Climate Knowledge.

2008-2010:  Principal Investigator, British Academy Research Project “Displacement, ethnicity and resistance in the Italian Alps: the story of the Agaro people”.

2005-2010:  Senior Research Associate and Coordinator, AHRC Research Project “A Tibetan woman-lama and her reincarnations: a study of the bSam-sdings rDor-je Phag-mo (15th-21st Century).

2004-2007:  Co-Investigator, AHRC Research Project, “Tibetan-Mongolian Rare Books and Manuscripts”.

2004-2005:  Principal Investigator, British Academy international collaborative project “'Nationality Cadres and Discourse in Late Socialist China”, in collaboration with the East Asia Institute of Columbia University.

2004-2005:  Principal Investigator, international collaborative project “Study of Leadership and Ethnicity in the Qinghai Area of Western China”, in collaboration with the East Asia Institute of Columbia University, funded by the Committee for Central and Inner Asia of the University of Cambridge.

2002-2004: Principal Investigator, British Academy large research project “Time systems and political negotiation in Mongol-Tibetan enclaves in China”.

2001-2004: Principal Investigator, international collaborative project “Tradition and Modernity in Tibet and the Himalaya” funded by the Austrian Science Fund and affiliated to the Commission for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences.



2013:  Buddha’s Word – The Life of Books in Tibet and beyond, catalogue of the exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (jointly authored and edited with Mark Elliot and Michela Clemente).

2007:  When a Woman becomes a Religious Dynasty: the Samding Dorje Phagmo of Tibet, New York: Columbia University Press. 

2000:  dBa’ bzhed: the Royal Edict Concerning the Bringing of Buddhas’s Doctrine to Tibet (translation and facsimile edition jointly published by the Austrian Academy of Science and the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences). With Pasang Wangdu. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

1997:  Feast of Miracles. The Life and the Tradition of Bodong Chole Namgyal (1375/6-1451A.D.) according to the Tibetan texts “Feast of Miracles” and “The Lamp Illuminating the History of Bodong. With Pasang Wangdu, Marlies Kornfeld and Christian Jahoda. Porong Pema Chöding Editions.

1996: Ngag dbang skal ldan rgya mtsho Shel dkar chos ‘byung. History of the ‘White Crystal’. Religion and Politics of Southern La stod (translation and facsimile edition jointly published by the Austrian Academy of Science and the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences). With Pasang Wangdu in co-operation with Guntram Hazod. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Edited Volumes

2016:  Tibetan Printing: Comparisons, Continuities and Change. (Proceeding of the workshop “Printing as an Agent of Change in Tibet and beyond”, Pembroke College). Leiden: Brill Publishing (co-editorship with F. K. Ehrhard and P. Kornicki).

2012:  Terrain,revue d'ethnologie europenne, vol.59, (special issue “L’ objet livre”) (co-editorship with S. Hugh-Jones).

2012:  Inner Asia, vol. 14, Special Issue on the Younghusband Mission to Tibet (co-editorship with S. Hugh-Jones).

2010:  Ancient Treasures, New Discoveries, volume of the Proceedings of the 11th Symposium of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Bonn:Zentralasiatisches Seminar. (co-editorship with Karma Phunthso).

2008:  Inner Asia vol 10, n. 2, special issue on “Cadres ad Discourse in Late Socialism” (with the proceedings of a conference organised by MIASU, British Academy, East Asian Institute Columbia University, University of California, CRASSH).(co-editorship with R. Barnett).

2007:  The Mongolia-Tibet Interface, volume of the proceedings of the 9th Symposium of the International Association for Tibetan StudiesBrill: Leiden (co-editorship with U Bulag).

2002:  Inner Asia (ed.) vol.4 n.2, special issue on the Tibet-Mongolia Interface.

2002:  Territory and Identity in Tibet and the Himalaya, volume of the proceedings of the 9th Symposium of the International Association for Tibetan StudiesBrill: Leiden (co-editorship with K Buffetrille).

2001:  Koerper, Religion und Macht -Sozialanthropologie der Geschlechterbeziehungen (Bodies, Religion and Power - Social Anthropology of Gender Relations ). With U. Davis-Sulikowski, A. Gingrich and J. Helbling) Frankfurt/New York: Campus.


2018:  “Birth, Death and Reincarnation in the Life of Fifteenth-Century Tibetan Princess” in M. Faini and A. Meneghin (eds) Domestic Devotions in the Early Modern World. Leiden: Brill.

2018:  “The yogini and the Hidden Valley – Did Kun tu bzang mo open the gate of mKhan pa lung”  in G Hazod and Shen Weirong (eds) Tibetan Genealogies – Studies in Memoriam of Guge Tsering Gyalpo (1961-2015). Beijing:China Tibetology Publishing House.

2017:  “ Buddhist Books on Transhimalayan Pathways – Materials and Technologies connecting People and Ecological Environments in a Transnational Landscape“ in Dan Smyer Yu and Jean Michaud (eds) Trans-himalayan Borderlands. Amsterdam University Press.

2017:  (with Charles Ramble) “Connexions vibratoires tibétaines Les effets du son sur les êtres vivants et l’environnement” (Tibetan vibratory connections The effects of sound on living things and the environment). Terrain68, October 2017, pp.170-189.

2016:  “Tibetan women as patrons of printing and innovation” in Tibetan Printing: Comparisons, Continuities and Change. (Proceeding of the workshop “Printing as an Agent of Change in Tibet and beyond”, Pembroke College). Leiden:Brill.

2016:  “Early Printing in Southern La stod: Remarks on a 1407 Print Produced at Shel dkar” in O. Almogi (2016) Tibetan Manuscript and Xylograph Traditions, Hamburg: Department of Indian and Tibetan Studies, University of Hamburg.

2016:  “Book Production on a Historic Transhimalyan Route:the Deeds of the First Samding Dorje Phagmo” Journal of Tibetan Studies, Vol. 14, 2016, pp. 160-176. published by China Tibetology Publishing House.

2016:  “Connected and disconnected memoryscapes of the Antigorio Valley: a village under water and a WWII massacre on a cableway”Modern Italy, Vol 21, Issue 1, February 2016, 19-34.  CUP DOI.

2015:  “The honour of the snow-mountains is the snow: Tibetan livelihoods in a changing climate (with A. Hovden and E. Yeh) in C. Hueggel M. Carey J. Clague, A. Kaab (eds) The High-Mountain Cryosphere – Environmental Changes and Human Risks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

2015:  "Sacred Books in a Digital Age: a cross-cultural look from the heart of Asia to South America" (co-authorship with S. Hugh-Jones) in: J. Leach and L.Wilson (eds) Subversion, Conversion, Development: Public Interests in ICT. MIT.

2014:  “Tibetan Buddhist Books in a Digital Age”  in T. Jansen, T. Klein, C. Meyer (eds) Globalization and the Making of Religious Modernity in China Transnational Religions, Local Agents, and the Study of Religion, 1800-Present” Leiden:Brill.

2014:  “Patronage and Printing Innovation in Fifteenth-Century Tibet ”In Patronage as Politics in South Asia. Ed. Anastasia Piliawsky, Cambridge University Press. 2014.  346-36.

2012:  “Deciding the future in the Land of Snow: Tibet as an arena for conflicting knowledge and policies”,in K. Hastrup (ed.) The Social Life of Climate Models London: Routledge.

2012:  “Communicating Climate: Proxies, Processes, Politics”. Current Anthropology, April, 53, 2, 226-244 (lead author in forum article resulting from the conference “Climate Histories: Communicating Cultural Knowledge of Environmental Change” January 21-22, CRASSH, University of Cambridge).

2012:  "Quand le livre deviant relique – Les textes tibetains entre culture bouddhique et transformations tecnologiques", Terrain, revue d'ethnologie europenne (special issue on the book as artifact), vol.59, 18-39.

2012:  "Holy Books as ritual objects and vessels of teaching in the era of the 'further spread of the doctrine (bstan pa yang dar)'" in Buffetrille, K(ed.) The Transformation of Rituals in Contemporary Tibet. Leiden: Brill.

2012:  “The Young husband - Waddell collection and its people: the social life of Tibetan books gathered in a late  - colonial enterprise” Inner Asia, vol. 14.

2010:  “Chos kyi sgron ma’s life and the Bo dong pa tradition: discovery and innovative creativity in Buddhist revival” in H Diemberger and Karma Phuntsho (eds) Ancient Treasures, New Discoveries, published in the Proceedings of the 11th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Bonn.

2008:  “The Twelth Dorje Phagmo of Tibet, female cadre and ‘living Buddha’: a political paradox?” In Inner Asia vol 10, 2, 153-169.

2007:  “Leaders, Names and Festivals: the management of tradition in the Mongolian-Tibetan borderlands”, in Bulag U and Diemberger H (eds) The Mongolia-Tibet Interface.Brill:Leiden.

2007:  “Padmasambhava’s unfinished job: the subjugation of local deities as described in the dBa’ bzhed in light of contemporary practices of spirit possession” in Pramānakīrtih,  Papers Dedicated to Ernst Steinkellner on the Occasion of his 70th Birthday. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studies, Universität Wien. 

2006:  “Faith, Nation and Gender Politics: Three Women Rulers in the Mongolian–Tibetan Borderlands“, in Sneath (ed.), States of Mind: Power, Place and the Subject in Inner Asia. Bellingham (WA): Western Washington University. 

2005:  “Female oracles in modern Tibet” in J. Gyatso and H. Havnevik (eds.): Women of Tibet. New York: Columbia University Press.

2004:  European Bulletin of Himalyan Research, review of Karl-Heinz Everding  Das Königreich Mang yul Gung thang, Königtum und Herrschaftsgewalt im Tibet des 13.- 17. Jahrhunderts, 27, vol. 25/26, 213-217.

2002:  “Tashi Tsering:The Last Queen of ’Sogpo’ (Henan)” (together with Yangdon Dhondup), in: Inner Asia, vol.4.n.2, 197-224.

2002:  „Die beseelte Landschaft: Natur, Kosmologie und Gesellschaft im tibetischen Kulturraum am Beispiel der Khumbo Ostnepal“ in A. Gingrich, E. Mader (eds): Metamorphosen der Natur. Vienna: Bohlau. 

1998:  “The Horseman in Red. On Sacred Mountains of  La stod Lho (Southern Tibet)” in A. M. Blondeau (ed.): Tibetan Mountain Deities, Their Cults and Representations. Papers Presented at a Panel of the 7thSeminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Graz 1995 (PIATS Graz 1995 Vol. VI). Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

1998:  “Montagnes sacrées, os des ancêstres, sang maternel - le corps humain dans une communauté tibétaine du Nepal (les Khumbo)” in M. Godelier and M. Panoff (eds.): La production du corps. Paris: Editions des archives contemporaines.

1997:   “Animal Sacrifices and Mountain Deities in Southern Tibet – Mythology, Rituals and Politics”. With Guntram Hazod.  In S. Karmay and P. Sagant (eds.): Les habitants du toit du monde. Volume in Honour of Alexander Macdonald.  Paris: Société d’Ethnologie, Nanterre.

1997:  “Frauen zwischen ‘Ähnlichkeit’ und ‘Differenz’- Herausforderungen anthropologiescher Praxis” in G. Schein and S. Strasser (eds.): Intersections. Feministische Anthropologie zu Geschlecht, Kultur und Sexualität. Vienna: Milena Verlag.

1997:   "The Hidden Valley of the Artemisia: On Himalayan Communities and their Sacred Landscape” in A.W. Macdonald (ed.): Mandala and Landscape. New-Delhi: D.K. Printworld.

1996:  “Political and Religious Aspects of Mountain Cults in the Hidden Valley of Khenbalung – Tradition, Decline and Revitalization” in A. M. Blondeau and E. Steinkellner (eds.): Reflections of the Mountain. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

1994: “Machig Zhama’s Recovery. Traces of Ancient History and Myth in the South Tibetan Landscape of Kharta and Phadrug”. With Guntram Hazod. In The Tibet Journal, vol. XIX, No. 4, Winter, 1994, 23-45.

1994: “Beyul Khenbalung - a Hidden Valley in the Tibetan Tradition between Past and Present” in Atti della 1st Ev-K2-CNR Scientific Conference, Milano 10. –11. April 1992. Roma: Direzione Generale delle Relazioni Culturali del Ministero degli Affari Esteri.

1994:  “Mountain Deities, Ancestral Bones and Sacred Weapons” in P. Kvaerne (ed.): Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 6th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Faegernes 1992.Oslo: The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture.

1993: “Khenbalung, ein ‘verborgenes Tal’ Tibets im internationalen Machtspiel” in T. Filliz, A. Gingrich, G. Rasuly-Paleczek (eds.): Kultur, Identität und Macht. Frankfurt: Verlag für Interkulturelle Kommunikation.

1993:  “Gangla Tshechu Beyul Khenbalung: Pilgrimage to Hidden Valleys, Sacred Mountains and Springs of Life Water in Southern Tibet and Eastern Nepal” in C. Ramble and M. Brauen (eds): Anthropology of Tibet and the Himalaya. Zürich: Museum für Völkerkunde.

1993: “Blood, Sperm, Soul and the Mountain” in T. Del Valle (ed.): Gendered Anthropology.  London: Routledge.

1992: “Lovanga [Lo 'bangs pa?] Lama and Lhaven [Lha bon]: Historical Background Syncretism and Social Relevance of Religious Traditions among the Khumbo (East-Nepal)” in  S. Ihara and Z. Yamaguchi (eds.): Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 5th Seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies Narita (Japan) 1989.  Narita: Naritasan Shinshoji.

1991:  “Lhakama [lha-bka'-ma] and Khandroma [mkha'-'gro-ma]: The Sacred Ladies of Beyul Khenbalung [sbas-yul mkhan-pa-lung]”, E. Steinkellner (ed.): Tibetan History and Language.Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien.

1989:  “On the Labour Division by Gender among the Khumbo, East Nepal”. With Christian Schicklgruber in Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, Tomus XLIII, Fasciculi 2-3. 

1989:  “Pholha and Yullha among the Khumbo, North-eastern Nepal. The Contradiction between Residence and Descent and its Expression in Religion”. With Christian Schicklgruber. In A. Gingrich, S. Haas, S. Haas, G. Paleczek (eds.): Kinship, Social Change and Evolution. Wiener Beiträge zur Ethnologie und Anthropologie, Bd.5. Vienna: Verlag Ferdinand Berger and Söhne.

1989:  “Mutterwort und Vaterfolge: Frauen und Männer machen Gesellschaft - das Beispiel der Khumbo”. With Guntram Hazod and Christian Schicklgruber. Arbeitsgruppe Ethnologie Wien (ed.): Von fremden Frauen. Frankfurt/Main: Surkhamp.

1988:  “Preliminary Report on Use of Architecture among the  Khumbo, East Nepal”. With Christian Schicklgruber. In H. Uebach, J. L. Panglung (eds.):Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 4thSeminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Schloss Hohenkammer – Munich 1985.  Munich: Bayrische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Kommission für Zentralasiatische Studien.


2013-2014:  Buddha’s Word. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge.

Digital publications, television and film

Website: A Tibetan Woman Lama and Her Reincarnations

Website: Tibetan and Mongolian Rare Books and Manuscripts Project

2006:  Researcher and consultant for China, Documentary by Jonathan Lewis, BBC 2.

1999:  Member of Jury, Trento International Film Festival.

1987:  “Tashigang – Ein tibetisches Dorf zwischen Menschenwelt und Goetterwelt” (script and anthropological advice) for 2 hours documentary for the Austrian Television (ORF).

Teaching and Supervisions

Research supervision: 

Alice Millington (in collaboration with Geography)

Theo Hughes-Morgan