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Ms Susannah Deane 

  • Overview
Position:PhD Religious and Theological Studies

Academic History

BA(Hons) Psychology (Bangor University) 1999
MA Buddhist Studies (University of Bristol) 2008

PhD Research

Working Title: Sowa Rigpa, spirits and biomedicine: lay Tibetan perspectives on mental illness and its healing in a medically-pluralistic context in Darjeeling, Northeast India

My research examines the interrelationship between health, illness, religion, and identity for contemporary Tibetans in Darjeeling, Northeast India. It focuses on the area of psychiatric illness, where religious concepts of causation and treatment abound, and treatments frequently incorporate these elements. In examining common religious and cultural understandings of psychiatric illness and healing, and widely divergent perceptions within the community, it investigates whether perceptions of causation are broadly similar to, or widely divergent from, biomedical explanations, and how these might be reflected in health-seeking behaviour. I have chosen to focus on psychiatric illness, because this is an area where Tibetan Buddhist and Tibetan “folk-religious” concepts predominate, and numerous religious healing practices are available in this geographical area due to the diverse population. This research will feed into current understandings of the interrelationships between religious beliefs, illness, healing, and health-seeking behaviour in a community with a pluralistic medical system.

This research has been part-funded by grants from Cardiff University, the Wellcome Trust, and Cardiff University Body, Health and Religion Research Group (BAHAR).

Start Date: October 2010

First Supervisor: Professor Geoffrey Samuel
Second Supervisor: Dr Tracey Loughran

Additional information

Seminar Tutor in Religious Studies at Cardiff University for 1st year undergraduate modules:
Religion, Culture and Society 1 & 2 (RT1108/RT6104) 2012-13
Introduction to the Study of Religion 1 & 2 (RT1111/RT1112) 2013-14
Associate Lecturer in Buddhism in the Department of Theology and Religion at Chichester University (Jan.-May 2014)


Deane, S. Madness in a Tibetan context: a comparison of Tibetan textual and lay perceptions of ‘smyo nad’ (madness) among Tibetans living in North India. PJMH: The Postgraduate Journal of Medical Humanities [online], 2014, 1, pp. 24-49 [Accessed: 20th October 2014]. Available from:

Deane, S. “There is power in belief”: creating space for psychiatric illness and healing in the Tibetan context. SHARE: Studies in History, Archaeology, Religion and Conservation [online], 2014, 1(1), pp.40-48 [Accessed: 7th October 2014]. Available from:

Deane, S. From sadness to madness: Tibetan perspectives on the causation and treatment of psychiatric illness. Religions [online], 2014, 5(2), pp.444-458 [Accessed: 7th October 2014]. Available from:

Papers presented

Stealing artefacts, offending spirits and psychosis: navigating a pluralistic medical system in the Tibetan context. European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Biennial Conference: Collaboration, Intimacy and Revolution, Tallinn, Estonia, July 2014

 Being a good Tibetan: lay perspectives of madness and its causes. Cardiff University Spotlight on Social Sciences Conference, March 2013

From sadness to madness: Tibetan perspectives on the causation and treatment of psychiatric illness. University of Toronto Scarborough's Tung Lin Kok Yuen International Workshop: Buddhism and Science, April 2013

Religion, health and illness in the Tibetan context: lay Tibetan perspectives of psychiatric illness and healing in Darjeeling, India. UCSIA (Universtair Centrum Sint-Ignatius Antwerpen) Summer School: Religion, Culture and Society, August 2013

"There is power in belief": creating space for psychiatric illness and healing in the Tibetan context, First Annual Share Postgraduate SHARE Symposium: Borders and Boundaries, September 2013