MA (St. Andrews), PhD (Edinburgh)
Dr. Martin A. Mills is Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland and Director of the Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research. He specialises in the comparative organisation and structure of governance in religious, state and medical institutions. He has previously lectured and researched at the universities of Edinburgh, St.Andrews and Sussex. Dr. Mills' principal research focus is the anthropological study of Tibetan communities, in particular its religious and governmental institutions. Author of Identity, Ritual and State in Tibetan Buddhism: The Foundations of Authority in Gelukpa Monasticism (Routledge 2003), he has carried out fieldwork in Tibet, Ladakh, China, Northern India and Scotland over the last thirty years. He is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute and member of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth, as well as member of the International Association for Tibetan Studies and the International Association of Ladakh Studies.
The Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research (SCHR) is an interdisciplinary research centre focused on the Tibetan Plateau and Hindu Kush-Himalaya. Amongst its public duties is to provide research-level briefings to policy makers and parliamentarians, with research and secretariat support provided to the Scottish Parliament's Cross Party Group on Tibet since 2007.
Read the SCHR's latest report to the Scottish Parliament, Climate Change on the Third Pole: Causes, Processes and Consequences (2021).
Memberships and Affiliations
- Internal Memberships
Director, Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research,
Elected Staff Representative to University Court,
Senior Personal Tutor (Social Sciences).
- External Memberships
- Chairman, Aberdeen China Studies Group
- Member, Executive Committee of the International Association of Ladakh Studies;
- Member, International Association of Tibetan Studies;
- Member, Scottish Parliament Cross-Party Group on Tibet;
- Fellow, Royal Anthropological Institute;
- Fellow, Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth.
All anthropologists tend to have two specialisations: one theoretical, the other substantive.
Theoretically, Dr Mills' major research interest lies in the comparative study of authority - whether in political, religious, medical or educational spheres - as a function of legitimate governance. This is not simply in terms of the imposition of command, but also the creation and organisation of social and theoretical truths within populations, and the formation of consensus. Thematically, this core research focus involves a general specialisation in the comparative organisation and structure of governance in religious, state and medical institutions.
In substantive and ethnographic terms, Dr Mills' primary research interest lies in the anthropology of Tibet and Tibetan-speaking areas, and in particular its religious and state life. Over the last three decades, this has involved a progression of research projects focused on the ceremonial nexuses of Tibetan monastic and state life.Such projects have involved the formulation of new ways in which modern ethnographers of Tibetan regions can integrate their work with textual specialists and indigenous scholars to create an historical anthropology of the region.
Ritual and State in Tibetan History
Since 2003, Mills has engaged in extensive research on the indigenous constitutional history of Tibet. This has involved three main areas of research: the study of the political history of the Ganden Podrang, the Dalai Lama's government at Lhasa from 1642 to 1959, and in exile since 1959; the philological study of medieval and modern manuscripts as they relate to Tibetan understandings of legitimate governance, in particular its own mythology of divine Buddhist kingship; and the ethnographic and historical study of the Ganden Podrang's ceremonial practices of statecraft.
At the heart of these issues is a theoretical concern with four issues:
The importance of ceremony and ceremonial understandings of statecraft - rather than mere belief - as the basis for the daily functioning and sovereignty of religious states.
The formation of mythological and constitutional and narratives as the basis for indigenous solidarities and political consciousness, both in the past and the modern day;
- The study of indigenous relations with the land and landscape as an central aspect of ceremonial sovereignty.
- The place of conflict and warfare in religious states such as historical Tibet.
Climate Change on the Third Pole: Causes, Processes and Consequences
Parliamentary report on rapidly advancing climate change on the Tibetan Plateau and its surrounding mountains, and the effects this will have on freshwater resources for all of Asia.
As Director of the Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research, Dr Mills is Secretary of the Scottish Parliament's Cross-Party Group on Tibet, and a member of the Cross-Party Group on China and the Westminster All-Parliamentary Group on Tibet. In his advisory role for these groups, he has authored and co-authored parliamentary briefing papers on public protest, human rights, religious regulation, political sovereignty and international law and environmental change on the Tibetan Plateau (see Publications). He is also Chairman of the Aberdeen Chinese Studies Group.
In doing so, Dr Mills has maintained a wide variety of fruitful collaborations, including amongst others:
- The Scottish Parliament at Hollyrood, Edinburgh.
- The International Association fot Tibet Studies.
- The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD, Nepal)
- The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, one of the world's principal sources on indigenous Tibetan historical and religious manuscripts.
- The Edinburgh Buddhist Studies Network.
- The Tibet Society, London.
- The International Campaign for Tibet.
- The Office of Tibet, London.
- The Tibet Policy Institute.
- The Confucius Institute, Scotland.
Research Supervision Areas
- Political anthropology and the anthropology of the state
- Medical Anthropology
- Tibetan and Himalayan systems of governance.
- Buddhist monasticism and ritual
- Religion and the state
- Modern religious movements and insurgencies
- SL5010 Principles of Research Design
- SL5006 Research Skills
- AT2005 Political Anthropology (groups, nations and movements)
- AT4525 The Constitutional Imagination (anthropology of the state)
- AT3540 Medical Anthropology
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The 'Trick of Law': The Hermeneutics of Early Buddhist Law in TibetBuddhism and Comparative Constitutional Law. Ginsberg, T., Schontal, B. (eds.). Cambridge University Press, pp. 99-123, 24 pagesChapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters (Peer-Reviewed)
Exorcising Mauss' Ghost in the Western Himalayas: Buddhist Giving as Collective WorkMonks, Money and Morality: The Balancing Act of Contemporary Buddhism. Brumann, C., Abrahams-Kavunenko, S., Świtek, B. (eds.). 1 edition. Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 109-124, 15 pagesChapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
Climate Change on the Third Pole: Causes, Processes and Consequences: A Working Paper by The Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research for the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on TibetCommissioned by Scottish Parliament's Cross-Party Group on Tibet. Scottish Parliament's Cross Party Group on Tibet. 43 pagesBooks and Reports: Commissioned Reports
The Last Gift of the God-King: Narrating the Dalai Lama’s ResignationTibetan Subjectivities on the Global Stage: Negotiating Dispossession. Bhoil, S., Galvan-Alvarez, E. (eds.). Lexington BooksChapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings: Chapters
Playing the Long Game?: The Politics of Religious Revival in China and TibetAsia DialogueContributions to Specialist Publications: Articles
A strange modernity: On the contradictions of the neoliberal universityANUAC, vol. 6, pp. 47-52Contributions to Specialist Publications: Articles
Dividing the Third Pole: Beijing's Vision for the Tibetan PlateauChina Policy Institute: AnalysisContributions to Specialist Publications: Articles
Review of Subject to Death: Life and Loss in a Buddhist World, by Robert Desjarlais: Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press, 2016, 295 pp. including bibliography and indexes, 39 photographs, US$30.00 (paperback), ISBN 9780226355870South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 678-679Contributions to Journals: Review articles
A Historical Atlas of TibetMountain Research and Development, vol. 36, no. 3, pp. 389Contributions to Journals: Reviews of Books, Films and Articles
The Dalai Lama’s secret temple goes to LondonThe ConversationContributions to Specialist Publications: Articles