Stacey Van Vleet F'18, F'13

Stacey  Van Vleet
Assistant Professor
Indiana University Bloomington

ACLS Fellowship Program 2018
Visiting Lecturer
University of California, Berkeley
Plagues, Precious Pills, and the Politics of Learning in Qing China

This study examines how a vast network of monastic medical colleges brought Tibetan Buddhist technologies of governance to the heart of the Qing Empire, 1644-1911. By spreading shared scholarly practices, social values, and techniques for managing daily matters of life and death (from smallpox inoculation to ritually produced “precious pills”), Tibetan Buddhist medical institutions structured an Inner Asian sphere of education and statecraft that both complemented and competed with Qing Confucian administration. Within this Buddhist medical bureaucracy, monastic officials negotiated the politics of learning on local, regional, and imperial levels, producing scholarly and ritual distinctions that became constitutive of fragmented national subjectivities in twentieth-century China and Inner Asia. Reevaluating Qing period institutional and cultural history, this study argues that China’s transformation to a modern politics of culture hinged on redrawing the imperial boundaries of knowledge and community to create a new secular logic for the Chinese national body politic.

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2013
Doctoral Candidate
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Columbia University
Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries and the Medical Marketplace of Qing China

During the late seventeenth to early twentieth century period remembered for the rise of science along mercantile-colonialist sea routes, Tibetan served as an important lingua franca within medical literature and Tibetan Buddhist monastic medical colleges, which flourished across East Asia along inland routes stabilized by the pax Manjurica. This dissertation analyzes these institutional and intellectual developments, drawing on an array of multi-lingual sources, to historicize the Tibetan medical system, its cosmology, and its community of practitioners within the context of Qing imperial expansion and decline. Bringing recent perspectives on the multi-ethnic dimensions of the Qing empire into conversation with scholarship on the history of science in China, this research considers how the Tibetan medical system bridged disparate cultures and political economies across northern China, Mongolia, and Tibet, providing a beneficial resource for sometimes competing projects of local governance and imperial diplomacy within the diverse medical marketplace of the Qing empire.