Fernanda Pirie, Associate Professor in Socio-Legal Studies, will be working on this project from October 2015 to March 2017.

Legal Ideology in Tibet: Politics, Practice, and Religion

The relationship between law and religion is one of the great themes of historical legal scholarship, yet the legal realm of Tibet’s theocracy has barely been considered from a socio-historic perspective. This project is tracing the different strands that emerged in Tibetan legal thought during one of its formative periods, the eleventh to the seventeenth centuries, which culminated in the rise of the Dalai Lamas’ Ganden Podrang government.

The members of the project are examining texts, ideas, and ideologies considered in their social contexts. They are tracing the different sources and strands of legal thought, exploring tensions between them and attempts by Tibetan writers, many of whom were religious scholars, to reconcile religious, ethical, and jurisprudential ideals. The approach is socio-historical, involving close examination of textual sources, but considering legal, ethical, and religious ideas in their social and political contexts and bringing them into comparison with scholarship on Islamic, Indic, Christian, and Chinese legal traditions. Socio-historical and anthropological insights are thus being brought to bear on a field dominated by textual scholarship, with the goal of developing new perspectives on Tibetan legal thought.

As well as publications on Tibet’s legal tradition, this project will culminate in the establishment of a web-based resource, which will incorporate copies, summaries, translations, and indexes of the relevant documents, currently scattered throughout different archives and collections.