Jake Dalton wins two AAS book prizes

Prof. Jacob Dalton won two 2013 book prizes from the Association for Asian Studies: the Smith Prize for an English-language scholarly book on Inner Asia, and the Cohn Prize for a first book on South Asia. Both are for his The Taming of the Demons: Violence and Liberation in Tibetan Buddhism (Yale University Press, 2011).

Of the book the Cohn Prize committee writes:

In his fascinating first book, Jacob Dalton fundamentally reframes the Buddhist transformation of Tibet, and vividly explains the remarkable role of violence in its myths and rituals. Against established understanding of an inactive "dark" period after the demise of empire in 842, Dalton demonstrates the expansion of Buddhism into Tibet, and its self-transformation, via The Taming of the Demons, widespread mythical and ritual binding of Tibet's other gods. Starting with foundational myths, especially defeat of the demon Rudra by the Bodhisattva Vajrapani in a form just as terrible and violent as Rudra, Dalton tracks anti-demonic violence through the rise of the lamas into centuries of war, by the seventeenth century at the behest of the Mongols.

It may seem surprising that this year's best first monograph on South Asia concerns events in Tibet's "dark" ninth and tenth centuries, events beyond current nation-state boundaries and more than a millennium old. But Barney Cohn would have loved Jacob Dalton's capacity to connect major extensions and transformations of Buddhist theology and politics to the violence of demon-taming, his finding of history in consequential actions well beyond the high and mighty. The Taming of the Demons is an original and synthetic interpretation, creatively written, elegantly put together. It uses a great variety of primary sources and weaves in secondary material with ease and mastery. Impressively broad, it re-centers and vastly improves our understanding of the history of Buddhism and its conquest of Tibet. Its interdisciplinary insights will shake up several disciplines and reward all readers.