Elizabeth Noelle Tinsley

picture of Elizabeth Noelle Tinsley

Assistant Professor, East Asian Studies
School of Humanities

Ph.D., Otani University / Columbia University, Buddhist Culture (2011) / Religion (2019)
M.A., University of Cambridge, History of Art

Email: etinsley@uci.edu

University of California, Irvine
468 Humanities Instructional Building
Mail Code: 6000
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Buddhism, East Asian Religions, Japanese Tantric/Esoteric Buddhism, Ritual practice, Sacred time and sacred space, Kami worship, Kagura Dance, Buddhist/religious visual cultures, spirit possession
Research Abstract
I am a cultural historian of East Asian Buddhism, interested in the ways that religious philosophies, practices, and ideals shape and are shaped by ever-changing cultures in different places and various media. This has led me from my love of religious expression in art, through museums and monasteries, dance and music, and into postwar Japanese subcultures. I am trained as a practitioner monk in the esoteric Shingon tradition.

My research is compelled by a fascination with the manipulable relationship between form and content, both material and immaterial, and this is what occupies me in two current projects. The first, on medieval spirit possession in Japanese Buddhism, examines the phenomenon of channelling Dharma, where the body itself is the medium. The second is on the aesthetics of the restricted/bound and unrestricted/disintegrating body in Japanese visual culture of the 1950s to the present-day as that culture negotiates both Buddhist and Christian imagery and ideas. Here too the body is the medium. Both of these studies are concerned with liminal states, physical and psychological.

I'm currently also working on a film documentary on craft skills required for making esoteric ritual tools, which follows a previous production on temple-carvings. In 2021 I will be introducing for UCI a collaborative event called "Transcendental Realms: Buddhism and Sound" which will provide a mandala-inspired immersive soundscape along with discussions on the significance of sound, music, and experience in religions.

I teach the courses "The Buddhist Body," "Sacred and Scared: Horror and Japanese Religions," "Asian Religions," "Sacred Mountains," and "Arts and Visual Cultures of Japanese Buddhism".
“Kukai and the Development of Shingon Buddhism” in ‘Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia’ ed. Charles D. Orzech, Henrik H. Sorensen, and Richard K. Payne, Brill, 2010, pp. 691-708.
“Intangible Gifts: Buddhist doctrinal debate as an offering to the kami at medieval Koyasan” in Otani Daigaku Otani Daigaku Daigakuin Kenkyu Kiyo 27, December 2010: pp. 141-172. (In Japanese.)

LINK: https://www.academia.edu/35448669
“The Case of the Henmyoin Oracle: Notes on Koyasan, lineage, and the oracular medium of Buddhist teachings in medieval Japanese esoteric Buddhism” in The Eastern Buddhist, New Series, Vol. 45, Nos. 1&2, 2014, pp.77-112.

LINK: https://www.academia.edu/35448692
“The Composition of Decomposition: Erotic-Grotesque Modernity in Buddhist Kusozu Paintings by Ito Seiu and Matsui Fuyuko” in Journal of Asian Humanities at Kyushu University (JAH-Q), Vol.2, Spring 2017, pp. 15-46.

LINK: https://www.academia.edu/31149514
Fellow, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), Yokohama City University 2017-2018
Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dept. of Asian Art 2016-2017
Fellow, Donald Keene Center / Shincho Foundation for the Promotion of Literature, Yokohama City University 2015-16
Ph.D. Fellow, Weatherhead East Asian Institute, June-August 2012 & 2013
Professional Societies
American Academy of Religion (AAR)
Association for Asian Studies (AAS)
Japan Art History Forum (JAHF)
Other Experience
Research Associate
Medieval Japanese Studies Institute: Center for the Study of Women, Buddhism and Cultural History (Daikankiji Convent, Kyoto)

Presenter of "Miyabori: Carving Divinity", a documentary on wood-carved architectural decoration in Japanese shrines and Buddhist temples
(Tokyovision, 2018)

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