Geoffrey Barstow, Ph.D.
Department of Religion and Philosophy
The University of Virginia, PhD
Harvard Divinity School, MTS
Kathmandu University, BA
Hampshire College, BA
Research and Teaching Interests
My research is focused on the history and practice of vegetarianism among Tibetan Buddhists. As such, I am concerned with questions of how animals are viewed, how they are treated (eaten), and what that tells us about Tibetan Buddhism more broadly. While my research is primarily historical, I am also deeply interested in the practice of Buddhism in contemporary Tibet. As a teacher, my courses emphasize Asian traditions as they have been lived and experienced by their adherents. At the end of the semester, I always hope that students have a good grasp of the tradition in question, but also that they can articulate why such an understanding is important.
I first encountered Buddhism, and Tibetans, during a J-term trip in college. That brief encounter hooked me, and I never looked back. After college, I spent four years in Kathmandu, Nepal, studying at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling monastery. This experience convinced me of the importance of experiencing a religious tradition first hand, and all of my research and teaching since that time has been grounded in my experience among Buddhists, first in Nepal, then in China and Tibet. Despite all the books I've read, the places I've visited and the people I've spoken to, I remain just as fascinated with Tibetan culture as I was during that first J-term trip. Tibetan religion is a sometimes cacophonous mixture of many competing doctrines and ideals, and I enjoy nothing more than exploring that complexity with students, perhaps passing along some of my enthusiasm on the way.