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Speakers


Jessica Vantine Birkenholtz

Jessica Vantine Birkenholtz is Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Asian Studies. Her book, Reciting the Goddess: Narratives of Place and the Making of Hinduism in Nepal (Oxford University Press, 2018) presents an archival and ethnographic study of Nepal’s local goddess Svasthānī, the widely read Svasthānīvratakathā, and the role both goddess and text have played in the construction of Nepali Hindu identity and practice. She is currently working on an English translation of the Svasthānīvratakathā and a new book project that presents an ethnographic study of the ‘third gender’ in modern Nepal that focuses on the intersections of religion, secularism, ethnicity, and sexuality.


Kerry Lucinda Brown

Kerry Lucinda Brown is a specialist in South Asian and Himalayan art. She serves as Professor of Art History at Savannah College of Art and Design. Her research in Nepal considers image veneration and the performative politics of display in Newar Buddhist visual culture, with an interest in festivals, pilgrimage, sacred landscapes, and ritual performance. In exploring the relationship between art and ritual in defining ethnic identity in Nepal, her research places Newar Buddhist art within the larger context of pan-Asian Buddhist heritage. Professor Brown is currently preparing a monograph on festivals and image processions in the Nepalese city of Patan.


Gudrun Bühnemann

Gudrun Bühnemann is a Professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has published extensively on Tantric iconography and ritual in Nepal. Her recent books include The Life of the Buddha: Buddhist and Śaiva Iconography and Visual Narratives in Artists’ Sketchbooks from Nepal (Lumbini International Research Institute, 2012), Śākyamuni’s Return Journey to Lumbinī (lumbinīyātrā): A Study of a Popular Theme in Newar Buddhist Art and Literature (Lumbini International Research Institute, 2015) and The Iconography of Hindu Tantric Deities (First Indian edition, revised, Aditya Prakashan, 2016). For more information, see her website: buhnemann.ls.wisc.edu


Louis Copplestone

Louis Copplestone is a graduate student in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University working on the architecture of Buddhist sites on the Gangetic Plain. Before coming to Harvard he took at BA in the History of Art & Archaeology with Nepali from SOAS (Univ. London) and an MA in Buddhist Art from The Courtauld Institute of Art (Univ. London). Louis was a Daiwa Foundation Scholar based in Tokyo, 2015-17.


Ellen Coon

Ellen Coon has been collecting oral histories in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal for over thirty years, focused on Newar women’s subjective experience of tantric religion. A former Fulbright Scholar, she holds a Master’s degree in Oral History from Columbia University, where her thesis was awarded runner-up for the 2017 Jeffrey H. Brodsky Oral History Award. She has published articles in The Himalayan Research Bulletin and Hinduism Today, and is currently working on a book based on her archive.


Christoph Emmrich

Christoph Emmrich is a Newarologist, Burmologist, Indologist, and Associate Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Toronto, where he has been teaching Newar, Burmese, Pali, Buddhist, and Jain Studies since 2006. When he does not teach, he divides his time between Lalitpur, Mawlamyine, Mandalay, and Pondicherry conducting research on rites and ritual literature, shop-keeping, and list-making, as well as poetry, textual practice, and temple management. His latest monograph Writing Rites for Newar Girls. Marriage, Mimesis, and Memory in the Kathmandu Valley is forthcoming with Brill.


John Guy

John Guy is the Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He served as senior curator of Indian art at the Victoria and Albert Museum for 22 years and is an elected fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served as an advisor to international exhibitions and to UNESCO on historical sites in Asia; his field experience includes maritime archaeological excavations. Since joining the Met in 2008, he has curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions, most recently Crowns of the Vajra Masters: Ritual Art of Nepal (2018), An Artist of Her Time: Y. G. Srimati and the Indian Style (2017), and Encountering Vishnu: The Lion Avatar in Indian Temple Drama (2016). He is currently preparing a major international loan exhibition devoted to the early Buddhist art of southern India, to be held at The Met from November 2020 to February 2021.


Eric Huntington

Eric Huntington studies relationships between visual culture, ritual, and philosophy in the Buddhist traditions of Tibet, Nepal, and India. His recent book, Creating the Universe: Depictions of the Cosmos in Himalayan Buddhism, reveals how sophisticated cosmological thinking can provide a foundation for many aspects of religious life. He has also written on the roles of illustration in Newar performance manuals, ritual structure in Śāntideva’s Guide to Bodhisattva Practice, and Buddhist transformations of landscape. Huntington received his PhD from the University of Chicago and is currently a Gragg postdoctoral fellow at the Chao Center for Asian Studies at Rice University.


Jinah Kim

Jinah Kim is Professor of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University where she teaches courses on South and Southeast Asian and Himalayan art. Her first book, Receptacle of the Sacred: Illustrated Manuscripts and the Buddhist book cult in South Asia (University of California Press, 2013) earned AAS Bernard Cohen Prize honorable mention in 2015. Her second monograph, Garland of Visions: Color, Tantra and a Material History of Indian painting (University of California Press, Forthcoming) studies the generative relationship between artistic intelligence and tantric visionary practices in the construction and circulation of visual knowledge in medieval South Asia, by focusing on Indic manuscript painting of the period between 1000–1500 CE. Her on-going research projects concern three main areas: materiality in Indian painting, representation of donors and ritual scenes, and cross-cultural exchanges across Buddhist Asia. Kim is also leading a digital humanities project, Mapping Color in History, which will serve as an online portal and a searchable, open database for research on pigments.


Todd Lewis

Todd Lewis is the Murray Distinguished Professor of Arts and Humanities and Professor of Religion at the College of the Holy Cross. His primary research since 1979 has been on Newar Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley and the social history of Buddhism. Since completing his Ph.D. (Columbia, 1984), Lewis has authored many articles on the Buddhist traditions of Nepal and the book Popular Buddhist Texts from Nepal: Narratives and Rituals of Newar Buddhism (SUNY Press, 2000). His translation, Sugata Saurabha: A Poem on the Life of the Buddha by Chittadhar Hridaya of Nepal (Oxford 2010), received awards from the Khyentse Foundation and the Numata Foundation as the best book on Buddhism in 2011. Recent books include the co-edited Teaching Buddhism: New Insights on Understanding and Presenting the Traditions (Oxford 2016); Buddhists: Understanding Buddhism Through the Lives of Practitioners (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), and the co-authored textbook World Religions Today (Oxford, sixth edition, 2017).


Dipti Sherchan

Dipti Sherchan is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research interest lies at the intersections of anthropology, art history, and critical feminist studies. She is investigating the cultural politics of art institutions, nationalism, and transnationalism in twentieth and twenty-first century Nepal. Her project proposes reexamining artworlds as culturally and politically salient ethnographic site to explore issues of sovereignty, solidarity, and belonging. She is currently part of a collaborative research project “Connecting Modern Art Histories in and across Africa, South and Southeast Asia 2019” supported by Getty Foundation.


Gérard Toffin

Gérard Toffin, anthropologist and ethnologist, is presently emeritus Research Director at CNRS. Since 1970, Dr. Toffin has been engaged in research in Nepalese anthropology, especially among urban and rural Newars of the Kathmandu Valley. His books include: Société et religion chez les Néwar du Népal (1984), Newar Society, City, Village and Periphery (2007), Imagination and Realities, Nepal between Past and Present (2016). His is presently engaged in a research program on Newar living theatre and dance. In 2013, he received Nai Derukh International Award (Nai Prakashan) in Kathmandu for his contribution to the study of Nepali culture and society.