Melissa Kerin, assistant professor of art history at Washington and Lee University, has been awarded an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) fellowship for a year of supported research leave in 2014-15.
Kerin will document and analyze Buddhist shrines in the Tibetan cultural zone — Tibet, India and Nepal — which she believes to be complex constructions that respond to, and reflect, multiple socio-religious environs. If variations among shrines demonstrate dynamic engagement between a devotee and religious objects, then that might reveal new information about popular religious practice.
Kerin's ultimate aim is to write a book, "Materiality of Tibetan Buddhist Shrines: Devotional Objects and Ritual Agents in Tibet, Western Himalaya, and U.S."
"I want to complicate the idea of 'the' Tibetan Buddhist shrine — a structure that is often homologized in both scholarly and popular imagination — by turning attention to its complexity as a monument, which manifests in a wide range of forms depending on its geography," she said.
Kerin will spend time refining her analysis and writing up her findings from her previous research in India and Tibet.
"The fellowship will also enable me to spend additional time expanding my project to examine Tibetan Buddhist shrines in the United States, focusing particularly on new establishments located in Charlottesville, New York City and Boston," she said.
ACLS makes annual fellowship awards totaling more than $15 million to more than 300 scholars selected from nearly 4,000 submitted applications. Fellows and grantees in all programs are selected by committees of scholars appointed for this purpose. It is a private, nonprofit federation of 71 American scholarly organizations in the humanities and related social sciences that promotes research by awarding fellowships and strengthening relations among learned societies. Its other activities include support for scholarly conferences, reference works, and scholarly communication innovations.