Stephen Christopher

Stephen Christopher

Marie Curie Fellow

Postdoc project

FLOW: The Value of Refugees and the Impact of Global Buddhist Networks 

Funded by Horizon 2020
Project period: 2022 - 2025
Centre for Contemporary Buddhist Studies

This postdoc project analyzes how Buddhism generates value in a global spiritual economy shifting away from the West and towards East and Southeast Asia. It tracks how global Buddhism generation of material and symbolic capital collapses traditional disciplinary distinctions between spirituality and business.

Researching the blurred boundaries between spirituality and economic value has two aspects. First, to ethnographically analyze Buddhist patronage networks from their transnational points of origin back to India. I conducted fieldwork in India on the Tibetan-Gaddi interface and in Japan on how Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhism fuse with Japanese spiritual therapies and spiritual business models. Going forward, I will analyze how Tibetans shape the collective imaginary of East and Southeast Asian host countries. The goal is to springboard from this fieldwork to theoretical debates about the value of refugees, the impact of transnational patronage, and the interconnectedness of global processes and localized Himalayan sociality.

This research brings together my doctoral research in Dharamsala (India) with postdoctoral research in East and Southeast Asia. The aim is to understand how Tibetan Buddhism is adapted to different socio-cultural milieus and to track how patronage flows back to India and shapes the intimacies and exclusions of rural Himalayan life. By tracking both the hard, material forms of patronage and ‘soft power’ in spiritual, social, and discursive forms, this project addresses economic questions with anthropological sensibilities.

ID: 300208921