ISM Fellows in Conversation | Conversations Across Divides with Dr. Kati Fitzgerald

January 18, 2022

Part of the ISM Fellows in Conversation Podcast.

Interviewed by Marika Proctor (M.A.R. ‘23) 

Introduction by Clare Byrne (M.A.R., religion & music ‘22) 

When Dr. Kati Fitzgerald traveled to Qinghai, Tibet to begin her research on lay women’s practices of religion, her first task was to become an apprentice in the daily lifestyle of nomadic women. As she learned to build and cook over fires and navigate the difficult terrain of Tibetan laywomen’s secular and religious landscapes, Fitzgerald began to understand how a Tibetan laywoman’s life was seen from within a Buddhist mindset: a life so fraught with disadvantage that no right-minded person would want to be reborn into it. Marika Proctor’s interview with Fitzgerald explores the religious performance of laywomen, the great divide between their world and those of educated elite Buddhist monks, and how this particular cultural situation could shed light on deepening cultural and educational antagonisms in the United States.

Fitzgerald received a Ph.D. in comparative and religious studies from The Ohio State University in 2020. Her project at the Institute of Sacred Music is entitled “No Pure Lands: The Contemporary Buddhism of Tibetan Lay Women.”