Dr Cathy Cantwell

Honorary Research Fellow
Dr Cathy Cantwell


Dr Cathy Cantwell first came to Kent for her undergraduate degree in Social Anthropology in 1975-78 and, after travelling in India the following year, she returned to Kent for her doctoral research. Her PhD (1989) was a study of a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Northern India, especially focusing on the annual cycle of ritual practice. Since the 1990s, she has principally worked on Tibetan textual research projects together with her husband, Robert Mayer, including a project at CSAC Kent with Professor Michael Fischer on an eighteenth century Tibetan manuscript collection

While keeping her Kent association, Cathy has participated in research projects in Tibetan studies at the University of Bochum as a Mercator Fellow (2018-2019) and as a visiting Research Fellow (2015-2016), working on the theme of Religion and the Senses. SDhe has been involved in the design of and work on a series of AHRC funded research projects at the Oriental Institute, University of Oxford (2002-2015), as well as one at the University of Cardiff (2006-2009). Major publications have included: A Noble Noose of Methods, the Lotus Garland Synopsis: A Mahāyoga Tantra and its Commentary (2012); Early Tibetan Documents on Phur pa from Dunhuang (2008); and The Kīlaya Nirvāṇa Tantra and the Vajra Wrath Tantra: two texts from the Ancient Tantra Collection (2007), written jointly with Robert Mayer, and published by The Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, Vienna.

Research interests

Dr Cantwell retains her passionate interest in Tibetan rituals and tantric practice of all historical periods. As well as delving into archaeologically recovered tantric manuscripts dating from the tenth century, a book is in process on authorship, originality and innovation in Tibetan revelations (the output of a project at Oxford, 2010-2015), looking at textual developments over many generations, with a focus on the productions of Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje (1904-1987). 

Recent publications include an article on contemporary Tibetan 'Medicinal Accomplishment' rituals. Her major work on a twentieth-century Tibetan Buddhist master is also in press. A further forthcoming book on a twentieth century revelation of longevity rituals, co-authored with Geoffrey Samuel with contributions from Robert Mayer and P. Ogyan Tanzin, is entitled, The Seed of Immortal Life: Contexts and Meanings of a Tibetan Longevity Practice.


Dr Cantwell has also taught widely in HE and is author of Buddhism: The Basics (2009), London Routledge. She has supervised and examined PhD research in Buddhist Studies, refereed for publishers, academic journals and Research Councils. 

In 2015, she was elected President of the UK Association for Buddhist Studies. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of the Association of Social Anthropologists, the International Association for Tibetan Studies, and the International Association of Buddhist Studies.

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