Dr Theresia Hofer

Theresia Hofer



medicineandmemoryintibet hofer

Research Affiliate

Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, University of Bristol
Research Fellow, Tibetan and Himalayan Studies Centre, Wolfson College

Teaching and research interests

Social & medical anthropology; international development, global health & disability; women’s & children’s health; gender; sign languages and language-focused methods; collaborative research methodologies and applied anthropology; anthropological approaches to memory; museum anthropology; greater Himalayan region & Tibetan areas of China; South & East Asia

Theresia Hofer is a social and medical anthropologist trained at the University of Vienna, Brunel University, University College London, and at Tibet University in Lhasa. After her graduate and doctoral research on rural primary health care, Tibetan medicine and memories of Communist reforms in Central Tibet, Theresia worked as curator of the Bodies in Balance – The Art of Tibetan Medicine exhibition in New York and held a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Oslo, working on gender and healthcare in Tibet. Moving to the University of Oxford and then onto Bristol, between 2015 and 2020, she is carrying out a new research project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, on ‘Tibetan Sign Language and Deaf Identities in the Making: Signing, Embodiment, and the Lives of Deaf People in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China’. For the first time this work investigates the social and linguistic milieu of deaf Tibetans in Lhasa, in a context of unequal access and participation in local medical, professional and educational domains.

Her work has been covered widely in the press, radio and television, among others, the New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal and New York Public Radio.




2018. Medicine and Memory in Tibet: Amchi Physicians in an Age of Reform. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ‘Studies of Ethnic Groups in China’ series, edited by Stevan Harrell. 286 pp., 30 b/w illus., 3 b/w line drawings. ISBN: 978-0-295-74299-1

2014. Bodies in Balance - The Art of Tibetan Medicine. New York and Seattle: Rubin Museum of Art & University of Washington Press, 326 pp., 250 illus., 150 colour, 10 x 12 in, ISBN: 978-0-295-99359-1. Open Access and free download.

2012. The Inheritance of Change – Transmission and Practice of Tibetan Medicine in Ngamring. Vienna: Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde, 418 pp., 37 colour and b/w photographs, ISBN: 978-3-902501-14-1.

Special Issue of peer reviewed journal:

2011. Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity Vol. 6(2), Special issue on Women and Gender in Tibetan Medicine (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers), 258 pp., 99 colour illus. together with Heidi Fjeld..

Selected peer-reviewed journal articles

2017. ‘Civilising’ Deaf people in Tibet and Inner Mongolia: governing linguistic, ethnic and bodily difference in China, Disability & Society, 32:4, pp. 443-466, DOI: 10.1080/09687599.2017.1302319, T. Hofer and Gry Sagli.

2017. 'Is Lhasa Tibetan Sign Language (TibSL) Emerging, Endangered, or Both? Notes on TSL’s History, Linguistic Vitality and Tibetan Signers in the Tibet Autonomous Region’. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, DOI 10.1515/ijsl-2017-0005

2015. ‘Gender and Medicine in Kham: An analysis of the Medical Work and Life of Derge Phurpa Dolma’. Revue d’Etudes Tibetaines.

2015. ‘(Co)Producing Efficacious Medicines: Collaborative Event Ethnography with Tibetan Medicine Practitioners in Kathmandu, Nepal’. C. Blaikie, S. Craig, B. Gerke and T. HoferCurrent Anthropology 56(2): 178-204.

2011. ‘Introduction – Women and Gender in Tibetan Medicine’Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, 6(2): 175-216, H. Fjeld and T. Hofer.

2008a. ‘Socio-economic Dimensions of Tibetan Medicine in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China – Part Two'Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity 4(2):174– 200

2008b. ‘Socio-economic Dimensions of Tibetan medicine in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China – Part One'Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, Brill: Leiden, 4(1): 492-514

Contributions to edited volumes

In press. ‘Sign Language Ideologies in Contemporary Lhasa: Being Deaf, Being Tibetan and Signing a ‘Neither-goat-nor-sheep’ Language’, In: Annelies Kusters, Mara Green, Erin Moriarty Harrelson, Kristin Snoddon: Sign Language Ideologies in Practice. DeGruyter: Holland.

2015. ‘Bodies in Balance and Biographies of Objects: The Art of Tibetan Medicine.’ In: Havnevik, H. and C. Ramble: From Bhakti to Bon – Festschrift for Per Kvaerne. Oslo: Novus Forlag. 

2015. ‘Bodies in Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine.’ In: Ramble, C. and U. Roessler (Eds) Tibetan & Himalayan Healing: An Anthology for Anthony Aris. Kathmandu: Vajra Books

2014. ‘Introduction: Tibetan medicine, Buddhism and the Visual Arts in Tibet.’ In: Hofer, T. (Ed.) Bodies in Balance - The Art of Tibetan Medicine, New York and Seattle: Rubin Museum of Art & University of Washington Press, pp. 3-14

2014. ‘Foundations of Tibetan Pharmacology and the Compounding of Tibetan Medicines.’ In: Hofer, T. (Ed.) Bodies in Balance - The Art of Tibetan Medicine, New York and Seattle: Rubin Museum of Art & University of Washington Press, pp. 46-63

2014‘Illustrated Materia Medica Prints, Manuscripts and Modern Books’, In: Hofer, T. (Ed.) Bodies in Balance - The Art of Tibetan Medicine, New York and Seattle: Rubin Museum of Art &University of Washington Press, pp. 226-245             

2014. ‘Pillars of Tibetan Medicine – History and Architecture of the Chagpori and Mentsikhang Medical Institutes in Lhasa’ (together with Knud Larsen) In: Hofer, T. (Ed.) Bodies in Balance - The Art of Tibetan Medicine, New York and Seattle: Rubin Museum of Art & University of Washington Press, pp. 257-267

2011. ‘Changing Representations of the Female Tibetan Medical Doctor Khandro Yangkar (1907–1973)’. In: Alex McKay and Anna Balicki-Dengjongpa (eds.) Buddhist Himalayas: Studies in Religion, History and Culture. Proceedings of the Golden Jubilee Conference of the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology Gangtok, 2008, Vol. I: Tibet and the Himalaya. Gangtok: Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, pp. 99–122

2007. ‘Preliminary Investigations into New Oral and Textual Sources on Byang lugs - the ‘Northern School’ of Tibetan medicine.’ In: Mona Schrempf (ed.) Soundings in Tibetan Medicine - Historical and Anthropological Explorations. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, pp. 373–410

2006.  ‘Die tibetischen Medizintraditionen aus Ngamring und deren Einfluss auf das medizinische Werk von Desi Sangye Gyatso (1653-1705), in: Andre Gingrich and Guntram Hazod (eds.) Der Rand und die Mitte - Beiträge zur Sozialanthropologie und Kulturgeschichte Tibets und des Himalaya. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences Publications, pp. 78–101

2001. ‘Health Care and Medical Systems in the Karakorum and Himalayan Region’ (together with Stephanie Rungaldier). In: Mountain Association (ed.) Encounters – Integrated Regional development in Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan. Vienna: Mountains 2001 – Regional Perspectives, pp. 291–307