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Dachille, Rae Erin
Associate Professor

Dr. Rae Erin Dachille (Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies, University of California at Berkeley) specializes in the religious and artistic traditions of Himalayan Buddhism. Her research focuses upon representations of the body in art, ritual, philosophy, and medicine in Tibetan and Sanskrit sources. Dr. Dachille’s book, Searching for the Body: A Contemporary Perspective on Tibetan Buddhist Tantra (Columbia University Press), explores a heated scholastic exchange between two prominent fifteenth-century Tibetan monks on a ritual practice known as body mandala. The book demonstrates the value of reading esoteric sources in relationship to broader conversations on embodiment occurring across and beyond the humanities today.

Dr. Dachille’s work reflects her enduring interest in revealing the many ways in which Buddhist sources may enrich our approach to studying the body as well as to formulating new theories of representation. She continues to develop new curricula focused on gender, ritual and representation in the visual, textual and performative cultures of South Asia and the Himalaya. She currently teaches courses on Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist art, Buddhism and Healing, Tantric Buddhism, and theories and methods for the study of religion. Dr. Dachille is an affiliate faculty member in Gender and Women's Studies as well as in Social, Cultural and Critical Theory. 

Areas of Specialization: Indo-Tibetan Buddhism; Tantra; Visual Cultures of Asia; Representation; Embodiment 

Currently Teaching

RELI 240 – Imagining the Buddha: Images of Buddhism in Asia and the West

What does it mean to imagine the Buddha? This course guides students in narrating the lives of Buddhist images by tracing their creation and movement in Asia as well as in cultural encounters within Europe and the U.S. Today art critics continue to discuss "Buddhist" elements in the work of iconic artists like Georgia O'Keefe and Mark Rothko, Tibetan mandala coloring books are being used for stress relief, and "Zen" aesthetics inform a broad range of fashion and design platforms. This course provides tools for critically reexamining the categories of "East" and "West" within this cultural moment. Through creative processes such as drawing, writing, and conversation, students interact with diverse imagery such as Chinese painted caves, Himalayan esoteric portraits of enlightened reality, and Japanese temple complexes. They interpret Buddhist texts describing the construction of buddha bodies in art, ritual, and in the mind. Students also engage with the work of contemporary performance artists inspired by Buddhist ideals of discipline and impermanence. Reflecting upon these experiences, students uncover how the categories of "East' and "West" have obscured the understanding of Buddhist art, artists, and communities. They document the ways in which power dynamics of colonialism and Orientalism have been integral to making these categories. In response to their findings, students work together to generate a virtual exhibition reimagining images of Buddhism and telling their stories.

RELI 359 – Buddhism and Healing

Is Buddhism a tradition of healing? In what ways has Buddhism been involved in reviving, sustaining, and curing human individuals? This course explores relationships and encounters between Buddhism and the domains of religion, science, and medicine. It considers historical relationships between Buddhism and traditional medicine in Asia as well as contemporary Western discourses involving Buddhism in popular culture, psychology, and spirituality. Finally, it invites a critical approach to the current dialogue between Buddhism and science. In the process, it reveals hidden assumptions behind commodifying `mindfulness' and the quest to document the therapeutic impact of meditation upon health, happiness, and success in the modern age. Students will have the opportunity to apply the ideas they have learned through analysis of relevant initiatives at the U of A such as the Neuropsychology, Emotion, and Thought Lab and the Center for Compassion Studies as well as of broader Tucson community events like the Gem Show.