Subjectivity Politics in <i>Sorrow Mountain</i>: Transnational Feminism and Tibetan Autobiography

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Alexandra W. Schultheis Moore, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: It has become a commonplace to describe growing Western engagement with Buddhism as a search for relief from spiritual vacuity and deep dissatisfaction produced by modernity. Buddhism in this narrative figures as either pre-modern or timeless, with Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in particular symbolizing an otherwise lost authenticity. The search for “the authentic” within the popular imaginary conflates Tibet and Buddhism, simultaneously divorcing both from modernity and ironically spawning an industry devoted to what Chögyam Trungpa termed spiritual materialism: religious texts, meditation products, dating services, retreat centers, guided tours, and the like that cannot ever complete the consumers? identification with a pre-colonial, Buddhist ordained, “Tibetan.” Circulating among these “enlightenment” products is an increasing selection of Tibetan autobiographies produced with spiritual, inspirational, and political goals. Looking specifically at Ani Pachen and Adelaide Donnelley?s Sorrow Mountain: The Journey of a Tibetan Warrior Nun (2000), I analyze the confluence and conflicts of these goals through the book?s paratextual and literary features. Although Sorrow Mountain deploys images of “authenticity” noted above, acquiescing to the seduction of the authentic reproduces the split between religious tradition and secular modernity and furthers the reader's desire for what must remain literally a lost cause. To avoid such vacating of anti-colonial political will against Chinese control of Tibet as well as to provide grounds for an imaginative affiliation with Ani Pachen, I argue for an expansion of feminist and postcolonial critical discourses to recognize the form of Buddhist subjectivity Ani Pachen represents.

Additional Information

Genders 44.
Language: English
Date: 2006
Buddhism, Literary analysis, Authenticity, Object/Subject dynamic

Email this document to