Author ORCID Identifier

Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Oberlin Community Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Cynthia Chapman
Emilia Bachrach

Committee Member(s)

Cynthia Chapman
Emilia Bachrach
Kevin Greenwood


Tibetan Buddhism, Material agency, Buddhist art, Museums, Animacy


Exhibition of Himalayan deity statues (Tib. sku tshab) in Western museums often fails to acknowledge their sacred nature and associated practices. From a Buddhist perspective, these objects are physical manifestations of deities and have crucial ritual functions. In reconciling objects interpreted in museological terms with their original context(s), this paper uses the case of the Allen Memorial Art Museum in Oberlin, OH. Physical examination and archival research with their objects, alongside ritual manuals, anthropological theory, and museum history, will aid in establishing museums as sites of meaning-making, provide an overview of Tibetan Buddhist consecration, and contextualize Asian objects in Western spaces. Arguing that museums often lack consideration of Tibetan Buddhist thought and practice regarding animate statues, this paper suggests frameworks for an anthropological understanding of Buddhist animacy and explores how these institutions could utilize the concept of “third spaces” to appropriately represent and discuss the different worlds sacred objects occupy.