Tending to the garden.

Recent news about research and projects.

Welcome to ‘Tending to Garden’.

This website is by and about Bhavana and Will Tuladhar Douglas. We live in Aberdeen, Scotland but our research is often in Asia. Herein you will find ethnobiology, Newar studies, Buddhist studies, medical anthropology, indigenous knowledge, Himalayan studies, linguistics and all manner of other topics.

You might also find the blog interesting.

This site is slowly being brought back online after the server was ransom-hacked in 2015. If you found anything there useful and are wondering where it went, please let us know and we'll try to put it back sooner. 

 

 

Ongoing projects.

Biodiversity in sacred landscapes.

This is a long-running project which has surfaced at the Perth Mountains conferences in 2010 and 2015. Papers from the 2015 panel will be published in a special issue of Scottish Geographical Journal.

The problem is deceptively simple: studies have shown that there is unusually high biodiversity in sacred landscapes. Why? In previous work WTD has argued that these are—at least in Asia—usually also sites of high cultural diversity, and that points us towards what Maffi and others term ‘biocultural diversity’, a term for which we have no good alternative. The usual account refers to religion and invokes ‘religious norms’ or other un-analysable social effects of private belief. Of course, the whole notion of the individual with beliefs is itself a religious norm imported into scientific discourse and sharply challenged by both post-humanists and cultural relativists, and we find ourselves with a tautological explanation for a desperately important feature—that somehow sites of intense interaction between multiple human and non-human social orders show atypical biological diversity. The problem is thus one that requires focussed STS critiques of scientism as well as acute and compassionate ethnobiological research.

The garland of anthropologies

In conversation with Joy Hendry over the past few years at ASA conferences WTD began to put forward the idea that different cultural-intellectual histories might yield distinct kinds of anthropology. This resulted in a long and rather exuberant paper called ‘Towards a Buddhist Social Anthropology’ which Richard Payne gave a very kind welcome. It is a first step, where WTD tries to think through post-humanist social theory in a Buddhist way. He argued in a paper given at MIASU in Cambridge that (at least for Mahāyānists) literary meaning would also need to be understood differently, given the Perfection of Wisdom theories; and it is clear, too, that the supposition underlying critical theory, that we theorise from our unique historical moment and accept its limits, changes radically if group karma means that all of us who are here (that includes you, Gentle Reader) were here before, and before, and before. Economics and exchange theory would also need reworking. So: agency, exchange, time, critical perspective, and literary meaning all work differently in a Buddhist anthropology rather than the Christian one we take to be ‘normal‘—what else?

 

Projects being written up.

We were in Nepal and nearby for much of 2011-3 on a Wellcome Trust (thanks Henry!) grant. We studied the flow of materials and information around traditional medicine. The results are being written up as a two-volume monograph in Newari (volume 1, sources) and English (volume 2) called Small Shops, Vast Landscapes. Material from this research has been presented at a number of conferences.