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Title: Printing as practice : innovation and imagination in the making of Tibetan Buddhist sacred texts in California
Author: Binning, Amy Catherine
ISNI:       0000 0004 7660 9568
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis offers an exploration of how one brings a Tibetan sacred text to being - and to voice - in the unfamiliar, and perhaps unlikely, landscape of Northern California. Through 16 months' fieldwork with a Nyingma Buddhist community based in Berkeley, California I ask how the production of the sacred is undertaken here by American volunteers who are largely neophytes to Tibetan Buddhism. Against a backdrop of the history of Tibetan textual production - largely populated by masters, monastics, and artisans - I explore what kind of work (both physical and imaginative) American volunteers must undertake in order to render themselves effective creators of the sacred in this American industrial setting. Drawing on current research that explores the adaptive capacities of Tibetan Buddhist traditional practices, I will offer a new facet to this flexibility through an investigation of the ways these texts and their surrounding practices are creatively deployed to meet the needs of their American makers. In this work I follow the sacred objects through their entangled physical and social creation in the various branches of this California community, from the construction of spaces ripe for sacred work, through fundraising, printing, and finally to the distribution of texts to the Tibetan monastic community in Bodh Gaya, India. In the conclusion I return to the question of how an American volunteer becomes an effective creator of a Tibetan Buddhist sacred text in Berkeley California, contributing a unique and rich case to the study of diasporic Tibetan text production. Ultimately, I will demonstrate that the very practice of creating and deploying Tibetan sacred texts offers a frame through which volunteers come to re-interpret and re-shape their spatial and temporal landscape. This dissertation seeks to bridge often disparate fields of study, allowing encounters between (and contributions to) such bodies of work as: the anthropological study of making, craft, and innovation; media and religious practice; the affective temporality of sacred relics; and the cross-culturally unique, agentive qualities of books.
Supervisor: Diemberger, Hildegard Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Anthropology of Religion ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Sacred Texts