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Charles Ramble

Understanding the Motif of Mirror-Imagery in Tibetan Cultural Representations: How Useful is Perspectivist Theory?

Datum: Fr., 28. Juni, 16:00
Ort: Institut für Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens, Seminarraum 1
Apostelgasse 23, 1030 Wien
Organisation: Helmut Krasser (IKGA)
Kooperation: FWF-NFN "The Cultural History of the Western Himalaya from the 8th century"

Thema/ Topic

The significance of the vertical dimension in various arenas of Tibetan thought and culture – linguistics, religion, ritual, songs, cosmology etc. – has been remarked on by numerous writers. However, less attention has been given to the phenomenon of mirror-imagery, whereby vertically-ordered elements are not just points on an axis but are somehow equivalent (sky = underworld, fish = birds and so forth). Recent writings on Amerindian culture, where cosmological schemes are also strongly marked by vertical mirror-imagery, have attempted to frame this model in the more general terms of Perspectivist theory. This presentation will examine a number of examples of mirror-imagery in Tibetan myth and ritual and will consider whether Perspectivist theory might help or hinder our understanding of these cultural representations.

Vortragender/Speaker

Charles Ramble

After reading Psychology and Anthropology at Durham University, UK, Charles Ramble went on to pursue a D.Phil. (Ph.D.) in Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford. Following two years of post-doctoral research in Nepal he remained in the country to work in wildlife conservation and local development, but returned to academic life to participate in German-funded, and later Austrian-funded, research projects on Tibetan societies. In 2000, after more than fifteen years in Nepal and Tibet, he took up the position of University Lecturer in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies that had recently been established at the University of Oxford, UK. In 2006 he was elected President of the International Association for Tibetan Studies. Since 2010 he has been Directeur d’études (Professor of Tibetan History and Philology) at the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, and also holds the position of University Research Lecturer at the University of Oxford.


The above picture illustrates the seemingly universal motif “fish are birds, birds are fish,” as seen by M. C. Escher, (Sky and Water II, 1938). Source: WikiPaintings, Encyclopedia of fine arts.

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