Panel on Tibetan Magic at the Conference of the 16th International Association of Tibetan Studies (Prague, 3-9 July 2022)

Aleksandra Wenta's picture

Dear colleagues,

I bring to your attention the following call for abstracts. Apologies for cross-posting. 

This panel is intended to present various methodologies and theoretical frameworks for understanding the practice of Tibetan magic. For the purpose of this panel, magic will be understood as an activity of exploiting non-obvious sympathetic bonds between things (in the Tibetan Buddhist/Bon context this would be a kind of, or a function of rten ’brel) to create some kind of supernormal effect. Such activities may include but need not to be limited to the use or manipulation of a wide range of material objects or substances—grains, minerals, chemicals, plants, sweets, dolls, animals, amulets, etc. —, special words of power, specialized bodily movements, and/or the invocation or manipulation of non-obvious beings. 


Our panel will not limit the understanding of magic to any period or methodology. Instead, it aims to encompass both pre-modern and modern Tibetan text-cultures whose magical technology can be reconstructed from written material as well as studied in an anthropological context. 


We are looking for panelists who may wish to consider the following questions:


  1. What definitions of magic emerge from studying Tibetan text-cultures?
  2. What are the different literary genres i.e., manuals, grimoires, prescriptive records, etc. that can be used to understand the mechanics of magic or actions that were deemed efficacious in bringing about magical results?
  3. In what way and to what degree do material culture and a performative aspect combine in the implementation of magic procedures?
  4. Who were/are Tibetan magical practitioners? What is their social background? Do they belong to elite establishments or are they liminal agents?
  5. What magical technologies were employed to cause supernormal effects? How and why are certain material objects deemed ‘magical’ while others are not?
  6. Is it possible to distinguish a set of cross-cultural patterns, attitudes, and paradigms of magic shared between Tibet and the wider ancient/modern world? If this is not the case, then can we consider magic as a culture-specific category? 


We welcome up to 400-word abstracts from established scholars, early career researchers, and doctoral students that should be sent to Aleksandra Wenta at and/or Cameron Bailey at  by 15th August 2021.

Categories: CFP