South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - From Psyche to Cyberspace: Digitizing Bhutan's Cultural Heritage

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Marriott Balcony B, Mezzanine Level

Exponential growth in digital technology today is drastically shaping how we archive, access and analyse knowledge even in very remote parts of the world. The Kingdom of Bhutan, which has come to be seen as the last bastion of Himalayan Buddhist civilization for its long history of undisturbed cultural continuity, is today on the cusp of such digital revolution and cultural transformation. Its far-flung communities and temples, which represent a treasure trove of texts and traditions and are hitherto largely unexplored and inaccessible, are now going through a massive and rapid change. With globalisation sweeping across the country, Bhutan’s cultural heritage is facing a serious challenge of decline or even sudden disappearance and in serious need of efforts of preservation and promotion.

After a decade of initiatives focused on the digitisation of Buddhist and pre-Buddhist texts, the Oral Bhutan Project was initiated in 2014 to document Bhutan’s oral and intangible cultural traditions. This paper shares the processes and the outcomes of this digital humanities project, as well as reveals the tensions and struggles faced by communities and researchers in its execution, the expedience of digital technology for cultural preservation and study, the shift in knowledge organisation, and the project’s contribution to cultural studies in Bhutan, a country best known today for its staunch environmental policies and cultural vitality, both of which are captured in its development concept of Gross National Happiness.

Karma Phuntsho

Loden Foundation, Thimphu, Bhutan


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3 - From Psyche to Cyberspace: Digitizing Bhutan's Cultural Heritage

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