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KFBsls Year 4, Lecture 3: Huatse Gyal, "Blessing or Poison? The Mass Production/Consumption of Khata and its Afterlife"

When: Friday, November 10, 2023
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM CT

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Joshua Brallier  

Group: The Khyentse Foundation Buddhist Studies Lecture Series

Category: Academic


What is a Khata (ཁ་བཏགས)? The Khata is a white ceremonial scarf used primarily as an offering to religious teachers. Khata is also used on many occasions, including for births, weddings, graduations, and the arrival and departure of guests. Khata symbolizes respect, gratitude, and pure motives. Because of the powerful meanings embedded in the Khata as a gift, it is frequently used in the Himalayan world. What happens when a sacred object, like the Khata, become ubiquitous? Today, the most common raw material for the Khata is a synthetic chemical fiber called polyester. Due to the widespread use of Khata in everyday common practices, discarded Khata can be found in rivers, lakes, and in animal carcasses. By drawing on recent studies of Buddhism and waste, objects and humans, as well as fast-fashion and pollution, this talk explores the paradoxical relationship between the meaning of Khata and its materiality, with the aim of raising awareness of the unintended consequences of our good intentions.

Huatse Gyal is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rice University.

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