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BUDDHIST IMAGE VEHICLES
CONTEMPORARY BUDDHIST WALL PAINTINGS AS SOCIORELIGIOUS PRACTICE

Dolores Zoé Bertschinger

This dissertation project looks at Tibetan Buddhist wall painting as a place of negotiating cultural and religious meaning. From a cultural studies perspective this project examines how images are both a result and a carrier of social transmission and lines of tradition in Tibetan Buddhism. The main thesis of this dissertation project is that change and modernisation of Tibetan Buddhism does not only happen in centres of Tibetan Buddhism in Western Europe or North America, but in monasteries in Nepal and India as well. The focus therefore lies on five case studies of contemporary Tibetan wall paintings in the Himalaya region and in Central Europe. With a visual studies approach, this project examines on the one hand how Tibetan wall painting is changed by complex transcultural interaction processes of tradition and innovation in Tibetan Buddhism. On the other hand it will show how wall painting visualizes, represents and carries on these processes. In accordance with Aby Warburg's idea of Bilderfahrzeuge (image vehicles) wall paintings are understood as cultural practice that enables processes of transmission, homogenisation, and differentiation of Tibetan Buddhism. This dissertation project, which will lead to a PhD in the Study of Religion, connects a cultural studies perspective with the history of images and ideas of Tibetan Buddhism. It is an interdisci- plinary and transcultural project that is based on a close cooperation of Study of Religion and Tibetology.