Anna Sehnalova

anna sehnalova


DPhil Student, Social and Cultural Anthropology
Wolfson College

Thesis: (preliminary title): ‘Landscape and Power: Buddhism in Cosmologies and Communities of Golok, East Tibet’

Research: The natural environment, diverse forms of wildlife, and their people’s reflections have always been a deep fascination to me. Within the DPhil project I explore cultural notions of the natural world in East Tibet, mainly in the region of Golok (on the borders of the current Qinghai and Sichuan Provinces of China).

I focus on indigenous non-Buddhist cosmologies of landscape and ancestral cults in their socio-political complexity, their interactions with Buddhism and how they inform Buddhism to develop new, extremely influential, well-incorporated forms. I concentrate on several aspects: a) the so-called treasure traditions (Tibetan: terma); b) the system of recognized lineages of reincarnations (tulku) linked to distinct (usually monastic) lineages of knowledge, ritual, authority and power, as opposed to (aristocratic and/or divine) hereditary, genealogical, patrilineal lineages; c) worship of mountain deities merging with ancestral deities; and d) the prominent role of landscape in ritual practices and these processes. All these aspects relate to various concepts of auspiciousness, prosperity, vitality, spiritual achievements, the sacralisation of landscape, and to specific ideas of post-mortal existence intertwined with the aim of acquiring these forces. They also tie to certain kinship patterns, deification processes of ancestors and of complex genealogies revealing possible origins of landscape cults, as well as to practices of concealing treasure offerings for environmental enrichment and prosperity in relation to treasure discovery traditions and linked geomantic practices. I study these themes through ethnographic fieldwork and written historical and contemporary sources.

Previously, I have studied at the Tibetan and Himalayan Studies Department of the Oriental Institute in Oxford and the Faculty of Arts of Charles University, Prague. I have spent several years living, working, travelling and studying in Asia (mainly Tibet, Nepal, India, China), partly as a student at the Tibet University in Lhasa, Lanzhou University and the Minzu University of China in Beijing. I have conducted fieldwork in different Tibetan communities, including Europe (France); and have worked as an assistant in biological research, teacher, and journalist. I am also involved in the Oral History of Tibetan Studies project based at Oxford.


Research Interests: Tibet and the Himalayas, Inner and central Asia; landscape and environment; religion, local cults and Buddhism, Bon; history, including oral and local history, social history, migration; ritual; orality; ethnobotany, ethnoscience; healing and medicine; material culture; modernity; environmental change.



Anna's co-supervisers (with Professor David Gellner - please see below) are Professor Ulrike Roesler and Professor Charles Ramble.