My name is Ben Joffe and I am a cultural anthropology PhD candidate from South Africa who is currently based at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I specialize in the anthropology of contemporary Tibet, Tibetan exile, and Buddhism; in the study of religion, magic, witchcraft, esotericism(s), neo-paganism(s), neo-shamanism(s); and long, dangle-y earrings. My doctoral dissertation research is focused on Tibetan Buddhist non-celibate tantric ritual specialists, or ngakpa/ma who live outside of Tibet, and the globalization of Tibetan Buddhism. I am interested in how the esoteric knowledge and charisma of these long-haired tantric Buddhist wizards is currently being mediated, circulated, appropriated and contested as part of increasingly transnational networks of exchange, and as part of Tibetans’ efforts to make legible a Tibetan nation in exile and to preserve and reform Tibetan culture as stateless peoples.
The posts on this blog, and my existing work, represent initial, modest attempts to explore how the fields of Tibetan, Buddhist and Western Esotericism Studies can be brought together through anthropological theory and method. I’m really interested in the sorts of challenges and opportunities such connections might provide. I’m interested too, in how practitioners’ own conversations about the theory and practice of religion, magic, divination, esotericism, and so on, might intersect with (and diverge from) those of scholars. I am a strong believer in the relevance of public anthropology and public engagement, and therefore hope that this blog will contribute usefully toward these ends.
I like shoulder-pads, sub-ordinate clauses, gratuitous hyphenation, and the-fact-that-you’re-reading-this. The first thing people usually notice about me is (hopefully) this blog, but possibly also the giant telepathic centipede that follows me everywhere. If you’d like to read some more about my research, and see a list of my presentations and publications, feel free and welcome to click here and here.