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Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Religious Studies

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Faculty & Staff

Nicole Willock

  • Nicole Willock

    Nicole Willock

Post-doctoral Lecturer
Sturm 382
Phone: 303-871-2050


PhD, Indiana University, Religious Studies
PhD, Indiana University, Tibetan Studies
MA, Indiana University, Central Eurasian Studies
MA, Hamburg University, Sinology: Literature

Areas of expertise/research interests

  • Complex relationships between state-driven secularization, religious practice and ethnic identity in Tibetan cultural areas of China
  • Translations of Tibetan hagiographical/biographical literature
  • Modes of adaptation of Tibetan-language poetics

current research and projects

Dr. Willock is a three-year postdoctoral fellow at the University of Denver. Professor Willock currently teaches the following courses: Buddhism; Religions of Tibet; Religions of China and Japan; Buddhism in the USA: Local and Global Perspectives; and an ASEM on Politics and Religion in Modern China. Dr. Willock is a select participant in the five-year "Religion and the Literary in Tibet Seminar," organized in conjunction with the American Academy of Religion (AAR). She serves on the AAR steering committee for the Tibetan and Himalayan Religions Group and as an academic consultant for the Treasury of Lives Project's Advisory Committee. She is co-editor of the Tibetan and Himalayan Field of Dissertation Reviews.

Her current research, underwritten by a 2012 Columbia University Libraries Research Award, concerns understanding "Secularism and 'Superstition' in Tibetan Intellectual History." This project drew upon the vast assortment of letters, documents, and publications in the Tharchin Collection at the C.V. Starr East Asian Library of Columbia University. She continued this research drawing upon more source material at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India. Dr. Willock presented her preliminary findings on the Tibet Mirror Press' publishing activities at a workshop titled, "Lamas, Spies, Gentleman Scholars, and Trans-Himalayan Traders: The Meeting of Religion, Colonialism, Politics and Economics in Twentieth Century Kalimpong" at the University of Toronto this last April. She will present further findings of this research at the International Association of Tibetan Studies conference in Ulan Bataar, Mongolia this summer.

professional biography

Fundamentally I see myself as a facilitator of cross-cultural exchange in order to improve the human condition for all people regardless of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation. My own pursuit of education has carried me to many different parts of the world—Australia, China, Tibet, and India, among other places. I strongly value indigenous cultures and religious practices of these places. I hope that my teaching, researching and service in the Academy contributes to the cross-cultural understanding of the rich bodies of knowledge, especially from China, Tibet and India.


Dr. Willock is finishing two book projects. The first, based on her doctoral dissertation work, A Tibetan Buddhist Polymath in Modern China, argues that Tibetan Buddhist polymaths played an active role in shaping the contours of religious practice, modernity, and nationality in the People's Republic of China. The second book project A Tibetan-English Primer on Tibetan Poetics (Snyan ngag spyi don) focuses on language pedagogy, especially teaching the art of Tibetan poetics to students familiar with Classical Tibetan. Her most recent publication is "Translation and Commentary on 'Motivations for Writing a Rnam-thar' by the Fifth Dalai Lama Ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho," in Robbie Barnett and Laura Harrington, eds. New Perspectives on Tibetan Traditionality (forthcoming).