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Title page for ETD etd-06122019-072608

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Foley, Briana Isabelle
Author's Email Address bfoley615@gmail.com
URN etd-06122019-072608
Title Armor, Heirloom, Bauble: Three Case Studies on Tibetan Jewelry
Degree Master of Arts
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Bryan D. Lowe Committee Member
Nancy G. Lin Committee Member
Robert F. Campany Committee Member
  • material culture
  • jewelry
  • tibet
Date of Defense 2019-06-06
Availability unrestricted
Jewelry practices in Tibet have been portrayed in past scholarship as entangled in the worldly vices of indulgence and wealth display. According to this reading, a study of bodily adornment in Tibet has no place within the field of religious studies. Though pristine when gracing the cold metal of the icon, or when held as an object of meditation by the spiritual master, the vain enterprise of decorating the fleshly lay body wrenches ornamentation from the “world beyond” and drags it back into the quagmire of cyclic existence. In this thesis, I challenge the reductionist readings to which bodily adornment has regularly been subject, and argue that the long-standing and varied practices surrounding bodily adornment in Tibet, luxurious and otherwise, cannot be determined by a single social function or motivating factor. Chapter one centers on jewelry in the line of fire, where protective adornment can mean the difference between life and death. Chapter two shifts focus to women’s ornamented bodies, juxtaposing descriptions of Tibetan jewelry in nineteenth-century European travel accounts with the recollections of a Tibetan aristocratic woman. The final chapter zeroes in on the role of bejeweled heirlooms in the court of the Fifth Dalai Lama, to explore the mnemonic power of jewelry and its entanglement in the politics of reincarnation. Throughout these three case studies on Tibetan jewelry, I insist on conceptualizing jewelry while it graces the moving body in order to account for the embodied experience of adornment.
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