“Modern science is like an ornament for traditional knowledge.”

Dr. Tenzin Nyima


See side menu on the right for individual project descriptions.


As governments increasingly fail to provide adequate answers to contemporary social and political problems, expert institutions – like medicine – as well as religious groups come to shape and govern life in the 21st century. In this context, anthropology faces a twofold challenge: first, to investigate these new practices of governing personal, social, and political conduct, and distill emergent and often unarticulated notions of ethics, politics, and personhood from them. Second, to contribute, on the basis of such empirical data, to the more general task of rethinking these concepts in the framework of social, political, and moral theory.

Stephan Kloos’ research takes the exile-Tibetan and Himalayan communities as paradigmatic of globally emerging social and political developments, characterized by a reconstitution of the links between ethics and politics, religion and science, economy and society, the modern and the traditional. Medicine often plays a crucial role in shaping and manifesting these developments locally in individual and communal experience.

The research projects presented here all ask, in different ways, how medicine comes to act as the domain where new forms of power and life are produced. How is this power to shape personhood, politics and our ideas of how we should live exerted by actual medical practitioners and institutions? Exploring these questions in the field of Tibetan medicine, these projects provide new insights not only into the Tibetan and Himalayan communities, but also participate in the more general effort to understand human life in the 21st century.