Dawn Collins looks up towards the camera, a bookcase behind her.

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Dr Dawn Collins BA (Hons), MA, PhD


E-mail: d.collins@uwtsd.ac.uk

Online tutor for modules on the MA Cultural Astronomy and Astrology and the MA Ecology and Spirituality and member of the tutor team of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture

I am interested in people — what they do, how they do it, and how they heal themselves. I lecture and research in Religions and Anthropology with focus on Cosmology, Sacred Geography, Divination, Tantra, Dance and Death Studies. I also teach religious studies at secondary school level and practice massage therapies from oriental traditions using an approach informed by years of practice as a dance artist.

I have worked as a researcher, academically and in documentary film. My doctoral thesis, entitled 'Presence in Tibetan Landscapes...', explores spirited agency and ritual healing in a Tibetan valley. I have worked as researcher, including on a BA funded project exploring ritual dance in Bhutan and in film, as researcher for the late British documentary filmmaker Micheal Grigsby. My work with camera and editing includes a film installation involving portraiture through dance, directed by Jo Fong.

Professional Affiliations include membership of:

  • The Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA)
  • The British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR)
  • The Complementary Therapists Association (CthA)
  • The International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine (IASTAM).

I am a Research Fellow of the Foro di Studi Avanzati Gaetano Massa (FSA), Rome, Italy (Gaetano Massa Research Institute for Advanced Study of the Humanities). I also belong to an international Research Group on the Body, Health and Religion (BAHAR) and the London based Documentary FilmMakers Cooperative.

In addition to the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, I have taught for Cardiff University, the University of Chichester, the University of Kent, the University of Winchester and The School of Oriental and African Studies, London University.

Research supervision and modules/courses I have taught on include the following:

MA Modules and Supervision

  • MA Cultural Astronomy and Astrology — co-tutoring on the following modules: Cosmology, Magic and Divination, Researching Contemporary Cosmologies, Techniques of Scholarship
  • MA Ecology and Spirituality — co-tutoring on the following modules: Ecology and Spirituality, Sacred Geography, Techniques of Scholarship
  • MA Contemporary Dance — research degree supervision
  • MA Translation Studies — module on Anthropology for Translation Studies

BA Modules

  • Death and the Meaning of Life
  • Buddhism
  • Hinduism and Modernity
  • Religion in Contemporary Britain
  • Hinduism

My doctoral thesis is based on ethnographic fieldwork on the Tibetan Plateau. The full text of the thesis, for which I received my doctorate in June 2016, can be found on ORCA, the digital repository of Cardiff University. The work explores how the presences of various kinds, such as deity, spirit, animal and human, inhabit Tibetan landscapes, what kinds of roles they play in ritual healing and their differing kinds of agency. Rituals explored in the thesis range from large communal rites incorporating whole communities to smaller household rituals; from Buddhist tantric practices and medical rites to spirit mediumship.

My research aims to explore the ways in which such perspectives can enrich contemporary conversations about climate change, collapsology and collapsosophy (respectively, the study of the collapse of the industrial civilisation, what could follow it, and the philosophic approach to it). I would like to build upon the ethnographic studies I did on the Tibetan Plateau, adding ethnographic studies of similar traditional worldviews regarding Celtic landscapes.

Research questions that interest me explore how traditional worldviews perceive presences of various kinds, such as deity, spirit, animal and human, inhabiting sacred landscapes and what kinds of roles they play in ritual healing and the health of the natural world. What do these sacred landscapes mean for those who those who inhabited them in the past and in more recent times? What ritual approaches to landscape emerge from these and how might they contribute insight to contemporary conversations regarding the fundamental changes now taking place in the natural world. How may traditional worldviews inform the shifts of consciousness humanity could make in response to these changes and can any such internal movements inform contemporary ecological perspectives?


  • Collins, D.H. 2013. ‘Dancing the Gods: Some Transformations of ’Cham in Reb kong’, in Dhondup, Pagel and Samuel (eds), Monastic and Lay Traditions in North-Eastern Tibet. Leiden, Boston: Brill.
  • Collins, Dawn. 11. Seeing the Gods: Divine Embodiment through Visualisation in Tantric Buddhist Practice. Religion and Sight. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Jul 2020. ISBN 9781781797495. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=35753. Date accessed: 27 Nov 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.35753. Jul 2020

Conference Contributions

  1. Workshop: Gesture, Body and Language in Tibet and the Himalayas, Wolfson College, Oxford - Tuesday 25 June 2019 – presented a paper entitled ‘Moving the Mountain Gods – cham and gar in Rebgon, Amdo on the panel ‘Gesture and Dance’ curated by Professor Elizabeth Hsu
  2. FSA Roma 2019 – collaborative presentation with Dr Crystal Addey of a comparative study of theurgy and Tibetan deity yoga at the annual conference of the Foro di Studi Avanzati Gaetano Massa (FSA), Rome, Italy (Gaetano Massa Research Institute for Advanced Study of the Humanities)
  3. Prometheus Trust annual workshop, Pratale, Italy, 2019
  4. Presented on Tibetan ritual dance at a symposium on Indian influences on Tibetan Buddhism hosted by the filmmaker Benoy K. Behl, Delhi, April 2013
  5. Arts and Aesthetics in a Globalising World, the Association of Social Anthropologists f the UK and Commonwealth, April 2012
  6. International Workshop ‘Unity and Diversity: Monastic and Non-monastic Traditions in Amdo’, to conclude the SOAS three-year AHRC project titled “Locating Culture, Religion and the Self: A Study of the Tantric Community in Rebkong”, Friday 30th Sept. to Sun 2nd October 2011
  7. International Association for the Study of Traditional Medicine, presented my preliminary PhD research findings at their annual conference in Thimphu, Bhutan, Sept. 2009.
  8. Workshop, the Body Health and Religion Research Group (BAHAR). Presented movement research on Pilgrimage, the Gower Peninsula, Apr. 2009

Research Awards Received

  1. 2012 British Academy Award for fieldwork in Bhutan, as Research Assistant on the project:
  2. 2008-11 Fully AHRC funded scholarship for the PhD
  3. 2009 Recipient of a Frederick Williamson Memorial Foundation bursary from Cambridge University to support anthropological fieldwork during my PhD research
  4. 2006-7 Awarded language training grant from the Society for South Asian Studies for Tibetan Language study at Lhasa University, TAR, People’s Republic of China (PRC)
  5. 2005 Awarded language training grant from the Society for South Asian Studies, British Academy to study with Sanskrit pandits in Mysore, India
  6. 2003-4 Awarded language training grant from the University of Oxford to study colloquial Tibetan at the Manjushree Centre of Tibetan Culture, Dharjeeling, West Bengal and the Rangjung Yeshe Institute, Kathmandu University, Nepal
  7. 1999 Awarded Dancer’s Resettlement Fund grant for BA (Hons) Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Bristol, UK