Westin Harris


Position Title
PhD Candidate in the Study of Religion
Teaching Assistant in Religious Studies; Teaching Assistant in Human Rights

915 Sproul

Education and Degree(s):

  • B.A. Sociocultural Anthropology, University of California, Davis

Research Interest(s):

  • Indo-Tibetan Buddhism
  • Sainthood and the Hagiographic Tradition
  • Tantra, Transgression and Antinomianism
  • Holy Madness
  • Embodiment and the Polyvalence of “Body”
  • Philology
  • Religious Studies
  • Performance Studies
  • Practice as Scholarship/Scholarship as Practice

Teaching Experience:

  • HMR 134: Human Rights
  • HMR 131: Genocide


Westin Harris studied South Asian Art History at the National Museum Institute in New Delhi, India; Buddhist Studies at Delhi University, India; and ultimately received his undergraduate degree in sociocultural anthropology from the University of California, Davis. A scholar and devout practitioner of Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism, Westin has returned to the University of California to pursue his PhD in the study of religion.

In general, Westin’s research is concerned with notions of the “body” (Skt. kaya; Tib. sku/lus), “holiness,” and “sainthood” in the hagiographical and liturgical literary corpora of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. More specifically, he is interested in the ways that holy bodies—that is, the bodies of Buddhist saints, siddhas, yogins, and yoginis—perform their very holiness. On a micro level, that includes the ways saints embody and perform their sanctity via various deeds and practices, some of them transgressive and antinomian like observance conduct (Tib. brtul zhugs spyod pa) and the practice of cutting (Tib. gcod yul). On a macro level, this includes consideration of the ways that holy bodies come to transcend the spatiotemporal boundaries of their mortal frames, especially via hagiographical and/or liturgical immortalization.


Classical Tibetan
Classical Sanskrit
Hindi (basic traveler’s proficiency)
English (native)

Selected Publications:

Harris, Westin. "The Life-Saving Lama: Chatral Sangye Dorje's Hermitic Eco-Politics." Beacons of Dharma, edited by Christopher Miller, Jeffery Long, and Michael Reading, Lexington Books. Forthcoming 2019.

Honors and Awards:

  • Kathmandu University Center for Buddhist Studies, Rangjung Yeshe Institute, Research Affiliate (2017-18)
  • Inter-Campus Exchange Scholar, Buddhist Studies/East Asian Languages & Cultures, UC Berkeley (2016-17)
  • Study of Religion Fellowship (2015-16)
  • Khyentse Foundation, Translation Studies Scholarship (2017-18)