Advisors: Professor Anne C. Klein and Professor Jeffrey J. Kripal
Dissertation: "Readings in the Tibetan auto/biographies of Adzom Drukpa (1842-1924)"
Learned Foote is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Religion with a focus in Buddhist Studies. His dissertation, "Readings in the Tibetan auto/biographies of Adzom Drukpa (1842-1924)," is an analysis and translation of Tibetan Buddhist texts never before translated into English. This project takes a historical approach to explore how these early 20th c. texts depict war, militarism, nationalism, and transnational religious pluralism during a politically tumultuous period in the borderlands of Kham in eastern Tibet. Critiquing the ways Euro-American scholarship has often stigmatized Tibetan Buddhist life-writing as ahistorical, irrational, or depoliticized, the dissertation considers how Buddhist literary and philosophical traditions offer complex and sophisticated accounts of history, politics, humanity, and divinity, evidenced not only in Adzom Drukpa's harrowing descriptions of warlords and armies, but also manifold encounters with gods, ghosts, land spirits, and awakened deities. The dissertation analyzes the auto/biographies' treatment of gender, celibacy, and sexuality, considering how Buddhist life stories challenge, complicate, and extend the insights of feminist and queer theory.
Foote has presented his work at venues such as the American Academy of Religions and the Himalayan Studies Conference, and his dissertation is supported by the Holstein Dissertation Fellowship for queer and transgender studies in religion. He is the co-editor of Opening the Archives of the Impossible, under consideration at Columbia University Press. His essay on reading gender and sexuality in Tibetan Buddhist auto/biography is forthcoming from QTR: A Journal of Queer and Transgender Studies in Religion.