David Geary

Associate Professor

Office: LM4 631
Phone: 250.807.8165
Email: david.geary@ubc.ca

Research Summary

Buddhism; South Asia; geopolitics of heritage; space and place; pilgrimage; diaspora; transnational religious movements and networks; mobilities and critical tourism theory

Courses & Teaching

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology; Tourism, Desire and Difference; Anthropology of Religion; India in Motion: Ethnographic Perspectives; Ethnographic Research Methods; Debating Globalization; Tourism and the Senses


My main research focuses on the reinvention of Buddhism in modern/contemporary India and how the politics of national heritage and tourism development intersect with wider transnational communities of religious practice in Asia. The themes central to my work are the colonial and postcolonial entanglements of archaeological heritage and sacred space, the politics of tourism and urban redevelopment, and the communal conflicts engendered by various social and spatial relations.

My most important scholarly contribution to date was a monograph published by the University of Washington Press (Global South Asia Series) entitled The Rebirth of Bodh Gaya: Buddhism and the Making of a World Heritage Site that grew out of my PhD dissertation at UBC in 2010. The formal declaration of the Mahabodhi Temple Complex as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002 has given rise to a series of conflicts that foreground the politics of space and meaning among Bodh Gaya’s diverse set of publics. Using World Heritage designation and its reach for universality as a critical framing device, in this book, I retract from recent events by providing a social and spatial history of Bodh Gaya that speaks to the multivocality of place and the complex local, national, and transnational connections that flow from it.

My ongoing research and public engagement continues to foreground critical perspectives on social memory, urban design and the political work of heritage within inter-communal religious spaces. Using ethnographic methods and multimodal approaches in the social sciences, I strive to build meaningful networks with communities and generate ethical projects based on local needs and shared values.


David Geary’s Research Website


PhD, University of British Columbia
MA, Carleton University
BA, Simon Fraser University

Selected Publications & Presentations

Google Scholar

Professional Services/Affiliations/Committees

Affiliated Research Fellow (Asian Heritage Cluster), International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden 2015

Anthropology Faculty Instructor, Antioch Buddhist Studies Program in India, 2012

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, 2010-2012

Research Analyst, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Residential Schools Resolution, 2008-2010

Member, Association for Asian Studies

Member, Association of Critical Heritage Studies

Member, American Anthropological Association

Member, International Association of Buddhist Studies

Member, Canadian Anthropological Society


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