Chophel Dendup

Chophel Dendup


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    Dendup Chophel joined the Center for Contemporary Buddhist Studies as a Postdoctoral Fellow in January 2024. At the Center, he will study current and emerging conception of productivity, consumption and waste in the resurgent and proliferating Buddhist setting of Bhutan within the project "Waste: Consumption and Buddhism in the age of garbage." His project critically examines how certain forms of organized and exuberant Buddhism act as an unwitting agent of capitalist practices, and introduces waste and other excesses in indigenuous communities such as Bongo in Southwest Bhutan. The project unpacks how these practices lead to reinterpretation and reconfiguration of traditional pollution beliefs and consumption practices. 

    Dendup has received a PhD in anthropology from the Australian National University. He was a 2023 Early Career Research Fellow of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhist Studies, which is administered by the American Council of Learned Societies. He studied the resurgence of Buddhist influence in Bhutanese polity in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. His study observed that Bhutan, which is the last Vajrayana kingdom, re-activated its indigenuous governance model of chos srid zung 'brel - or the dual system of Buddhist and secular laws - in the post-pandemic reconstruction of the country. The clerical support materialized through its traditional ritual interventions and the revitalization of its cummunity outreach activities. At the Center for Advanced Studies-Erlangen (Friedrich Alexander University, Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany), he studied elderly female mediums (nejom) in Ketokha and Bongo villages of Bhutan, and their often asymmetrical relation with institutionalized Buddhism. In doing so, he unpacked the processes and impact of Buddhist gentrification in displacing localized ritual practices in historically marginal communities in Bhutan. On a Visiting Research Fellowship at the Institute of Developing Economies-Japanese External Trade Organization (IDE-JETRO) in Japan, he has explored the fundamental ways in which Buddhism counterintuitively valorizes and promotes economic productivity and material prosperity in a Bhutanese overseas community in Australia. 

    He is an Associated Researcher at the Institute of Social Anthropology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. He has previously worked as a policy researcher at the Centre for Bhutan & GNH Studies in Thimphu, which is an interdisciplinary government think-tank. His research interests lie at the intersection of the anthropology of religion, ritualism, material prosperity, economic development, and social movements and changes with a regional focus on South Asia, particularly focusing on the Himalayas and Bhutan. 

    ID: 336992205