MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of November 1984

Elliot Sperling

Tibetan Studies Scholar

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Age: 33 at time of award

Deceased: Jan. 29, 2017

Published November 1, 1984

Elliot Sperling studies medieval and modern Sino-Tibetan relations.

His research centers on the political, religious, cultural, and economic relations between Tibet and China from the fourteenth through seventeenth centuries, and Tibet and early-twentieth-century China.  Of central concern to his research is the historical status of Tibet as a sovereign entity, shedding new light on this question during the critical period between the fall of the Yuan Dynasty (1368) and the advent of the Fifth Dalai Lama.  Sperling uses Chinese and Tibetan texts for his primary research and has traveled to Taiwan, India, Nepal and other countries to examine archival texts written in Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Manchu, Uigur, and other languages.  He is the author of The Tibet-China Conflict: History and Polemics (2004) and the editor of Tibet since 1950: Silence, Prison or Exile (2000). 

Sperling is an associate professor of Tibetan Studies and chair of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University.  He served as a member of the U.S. Secretary of State's Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad (1996-1999), and since 1981 as co-editor of the Journal of the Tibet Society.

Sperling received a B.A. (1973) from Queens College, City University of New York, and an M.A. (1980) and Ph.D. (1983) from Indiana University.

Last updated January 1, 2005.

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