An interview with
Position & Affiliation: Independent Researcher, former President of the International Association for Ladakh Studies
Date: November 22, 2018 in Bonn, Germany
Interviewed by: Anna Sehnalova
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Oral History of Tibetan Studies project.
- 0:00 Intro
- 00:32 I would like to ask you about your life and connection to Buddhist studies
- 01:36 Where did you grow up?
- 02:18 Can I ask you about your childhood? Any hobbies? How was it growing up in Devon? Did you have any siblings?
- 03:36 Why was it interesting to read about Tibet?
- 06:49 Why did you decide to study history at university?
- 09:32 How do you remember Kenya at that time in the 1970s?
- 10:49 How were the studies of history at Cambridge?
- 12:09 Who were your teachers?
- 15:18 You did your studies at Cambridge and then what happened?
- 17:16 You went to India to this school. Where was the school?
- 22:42 When did you go to Ladakh for the first time?
- 25:29 How do you remember Ladakh at the time?
- 28:33 What were the social changes that triggered this?
- 29:38 Since your first visit in 1979 has Ladakh influenced you until now?
- 44:40 What did you teach at the school?
- 47:32 How did the school develop?
- 53:34 What happened then? Did you return to the UK?
- 1:08:01 How many people started the Ladakhi International Association? How did you see the development of it until now?
- 1:12:58 Since you have participated in many IATS meetings, how do you perceive its changes and developments?
- 1:15:11 You also moved to Japan for some time, how was your life in Japan?
- 1:19:27 What is so fascinating to be in-between Europe and Asia?
- 1:28:07 Why do you think personal stories are important? Why do you like to trace history through people?
- 1:20:31 How would say the approach to Tibetan culture and Tibetan objects in museums has changed throughout your life?
- 1:32:28 Is this idea of each individual having a value, connected to your work on human rights?
- 1:37:37 Do you enjoy being an independent researcher?
- 1:42:06 Where did you learn Tibetan as a written language?
- 1:45:41 Could you say a bit about your work in human rights and business consultancy?
- 1:54:50 Would you also say that academics should contribute to human rights issues, especially in Tibet?
- 1:57:53 Could you say what you consider special or unusual about Tibetan art?
- 1:58:10 What are your memories of working with Tsering Dhundup Gonkatsang?
- 2:10:30 Did you knew Michael and Anthony Aris?
- 2:24:59 Is there something else you would like to add before we move to our concluding questions?
- 2:29:49 What has your career in Tibetan or Ladakhi studies given to you? How has it enriched your life?
- 2:30:55 What is the most interesting and challenging part?
- 2:35:25 What is there that you would still like to do?
- 2:43:05 We are conducting this project for future students. Do you have any advice for them?
After studying History at Cambridge University, I spent two years teaching in India, first at a school for Tibetan refugees near Dehra Dun and then in Ladakh. On returning to the UK, I embarked on a career as a business risk consultant, and I now live in Singapore. In my consultancy work, I focus on political risk, anti-corruption, and business and human rights. At the same time, I have developed a parallel career as an independent scholar working on the history of Ladakh, Tibet and the Himalayan border regions.
I used to think of my two careers as entirely separate fields of activity. Recently, I have become more alert to common themes. Since childhood I have loved history: old buildings, old documents and the personal reminiscences of relatives and friends. At Cambridge I studied the history of Europe’s relations with Asia and Africa. Now I am based in Singapore, after 12 years in Japan, and I am constantly reminded that my own life is part of this still-unfolding engagement between different cultures and regions.
In both fields of enquiry I am excited by grand themes: inter-connections between East and West; Christianity and Buddhism; human rights. At the same time, I find myself coming back again and again to the lives of individuals, learning how they navigate the pressures and opportunities of the times in which they live.
© Taken from John Bray’s Academia.edu page