Decedent as Epistemic Object: Ontologies, technologies, and enaction in a collaborative research program
A Brown Bag with Dylan Lott, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Center for Healthy Minds
Since 2012, scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds have worked with the Tibetan Medical and Astrological College and Delek Allopathic Hospital in Dharamsala, India to conduct research on a phenomenon known as tukdam (Tib., thugs dam), a unique meditative state which Tibetan Buddhist believe can be achieved at the moment of death. Specially trained Tibetan doctors in India record peri- and post-mortem physiological data in the effort to document the alleged effects of this meditative state. Unfolding in tandem with this psychophysiological research is an ethnographic project that seeks to understand the conceptual, pragmatic, institutional, cultural and interpersonal mechanisms whereby divergent knowledge-systems—including biomedicine and Tibetan Buddhist tantric theory—compete and cohere within this research framework. At this Brown Bag, I will offer an account of the project’s history and its rationale before turning to an exploration of the ways in which different types of expertise are enacted in relation to the decedent body under investigation.