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Joffe, Ben Philip

Grant Type
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Insitutional Affiliation
Colorado, Boulder, U. of
Status
Completed Grant
Approve Date
Project Title
Joffe, Ben Philip, U. of Colorado, Boulder, CO - To aid research on 'White Robes, Matted Hair: Tibetan Renouncers, Institutional Authority, and the Mediation of Charisma in Exile,' supervised by Dr. Carole Ann McGranahan

BEN P. JOFFE, then a graduate student at University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, was awarded funding in April 2014 to aid research on 'White Robes, Matted Hair: Tibetan Renouncers, Institutional Authority, and the Mediation of Charisma in Exile,' supervised by Dr. Carole Ann McGranahan. Ngakpa/ma (m./f.) are long-haired, non-celibate, Tibetan Buddhist esoteric ritual specialists. Straddling lay and monastic worlds, they reside in a shifting third space of accommodation and resistance to mainstream structures. With the invasion of Tibet by China in 1950, Tibetan refugees across the globe have struggled to make a sovereign nation legible and legitimate in exile, and to rebuild their religious, political, and social-cultural institutions away from home. Today, the once de-centralized religious traditions of virtuoso ngakpa/mas are being preserved in durable institutions, fixed in texts, and taught increasingly to foreigners. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork involving ngakpa/mas and their communities and institutions in India, this project examines how the politics of Tibetan religious power are playing out both in Tibetan exile communities and beyond them. The dissertation research focuses on how ngakpa/mas' highly valued yet sometimes contentious esoteric knowledge and charisma are being mediated, circulated, appropriated and contested in light of the increasing globalization of Tibetan Buddhism, and as part of drives to make legible a Tibetan nation and to both preserve and reform Tibetan culture in exile. Using ngakpa/mas' ambiguous charisma as a lens, this research shows how the forging of cultural coherence in exile involves both creativity and contradiction.