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UCR’s Health Humanities and Disability Justice Lab and the Department for the Study of Religion present: "Among Gods and Germs: Nyen Fever in Tibet" with Prof. William McGrath (NYU)

On January 26th, 2020, the Tibetan Medicine Administration for the Tibet Autonomous Region officially reported that the spreading COVID outbreak was a type of “nyen fever” (gnyan
rims
). This talk will trace a history of nyen spirits and nyen fevers, exploring the various kinds of agency afforded to them in Tibetan medical, Buddhist, and Bönpo sources. For healthy people, the nyen are awesome beings, but for the sick they are terrible bugs. In each case, the nyen embody the presence of disease and death in a human landscape, while still affording methods for protection and the restoration of health. Modalities of disease and health such as nyen provide global resources for the critical projects of the medical humanities and disability studies today.


William A. McGrath is the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Assistant Professor of Buddhist Studies at NYU. His research concerns the historical intersections of religion and medicine in Tibet, and he recently edited the volume Knowledge and Context in Tibetan Medicine (2019).

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