Dr. William M. Gorvine

Dr. William GorvineAssociate Professor of Religious Studies

(501) 450-3820

M.A., Ph.D., History of Religions, University of Virginia
B.A., Asian Studies, Connecticut College

Teaching and Research Interests:

•  Tibetan and Himalayan Religion
•  Buddhist Studies
•  Hinduism and Religion in South Asia
•  Shamanism and Indigenous Religions
•  Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
•  Religious Biography and Historiography
•  Tibetan Language

Personal Statement:

As a specialist in the religions of Asia, I introduce students to religious ideas, expressions and communities that are often wholly unfamiliar, but which comprise some of the most important traditions shaping our world today. In the process, we work to develop a mature understanding of others that is especially vital in our increasingly global society. At the same time, we also gain valuable perspective upon our own unique vantage points. In religious studies, this necessarily raises questions about the category of “religion” itself, and about how particular approaches or assumptions may significantly affect what one observes, or chooses to designate, as “religious” in the first place. In my teaching, I enjoy thinking about meta-issues like these, and my training leads me to explore the varied terrain of religious studies by utilizing a range of disciplinary perspectives, from the historical and philosophical to the literary and anthropological.

My scholarly work similarly reflects interdisciplinary interests along with broad training in the History of Religions. My research largely focuses on the minority Bön religious tradition in Tibet, especially as it developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This work has been most prominently supported by a Fulbright-Hays fellowship, and by the invaluable contributions of traditional Bön scholars and teachers in India. Currently I am completing a book manuscript that presents a study and translation of the life of Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen (1859-1934), one of the most influential representatives of contemporary Bön. The book utilizes close readings of two versions of Shardza’s biography, along with oral history collected in Bön communities, to present and interpret the biographical image of this important figure, culminating in the first English translation of his life-story. This project explores the blurring of boundaries between history and hagiography in Tibetan life-writing, while providing fresh insights into the unique sectarian environment of the disciple-biographer and his audience.

Projects and Publications:

Envisioning a Tibetan Luminary: The Life of a Modern Bönpo Saint. (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2015).

Courses Offered:

LBST 150: The Engaged Citizen: Asian Identities in Conflict (with Dr. Michael Sprunger)

RELI 111: Asian Religions: An Introduction

RELI 223: Introduction to Hinduism

RELI 225: Introduction to Buddhism

RELI 238: Tibetan Buddhism

RELI 334: Buddhist Saints

RELI 335: Shamans, Scholars & Indigenous Religion

RELI 395: Approaching the Study of Religion

RELI 497: Senior Colloquium