Kati Fitzgerald, a PhD candidate in the Department of Comparative Studies, was recently awarded a fellowship from the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies. Fitzgerald is studying the religious practices of Tibetan Buddhist women for her dissertation entitled “No Pure Lands: The Contemporary Tibetan Buddhism of Lay Women in Kham and the Diaspora.”
Kati says, "My dissertation argues that the Buddhism of female lay practitioners—often labeled animistic, pagan, superstitious, non-philosophical, shamanistic—is in fact constituent of modern Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhism is a living practice that cannot be extricated from its relationship with sacred space, local deities, this-worldly concerns, and violence. In my preliminary fieldwork, I have observed that the practices and reflections produced by Tibetan Buddhist women are able to reconcile the simultaneously philosophical and pragmatic nature of contemporary Tibetan Buddhism. I use ethnographic data from Nangchen, Qinghai Province, PRC and the diasporic communities of Bir and Tso Pema, Himachal Pradesh, India, to argue for a definition of Tibetan Buddhism founded in female practice."