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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Patricia Giles

Patricia Giles, Profile Photo

PhD Candidate


514 Hall of Languages


  • Degree: Began Ph.D. program in 2008
  • Advisor: Gareth Fisher

Patricia's dissertation reflects on the nature of the relationship between religion and the contemporary arts. In it, she considers the creative practices of contemporary Han Chinese artist, Zhang Huan, who converted to Tibetan Buddhism in 2005, alongside the religious practices of ethnically Tibetan Buddhists living in Chinese-occupied Tibet. Patricia analyzes the details of their shared engagement in productive activities that generate meaning. She is attentive to the ways each draws from various religious and non-religious sources as they take up the challenge of creating senses of family, community, and identity that provide them with a moral center to orient their activities in the face of ongoing uncertainty in an autocratic state. Patricia’s approach is guided in part by phenomenology and affect theories, which have highlighted the fundamental roles of the human body, its senses, and its embeddedness in the world in the constitution of meaning. She also draws from Buddhist philosophies which regard the mind as a sixth sense that functions together with the other five senses, and view phenomena as the culmination of a non-sequential process of interdependent co-arising.

Patricia was born and raised on the coast of Maine. She earned a BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design, and an MFA in Film Production from Boston University. After working for several years at the PBS series, Frontline, Patricia earned an MDiv at Harvard Divinity School with a focus on religion and art. She currently works at the Syracuse University Libraries in the Department of Learning and Academic Engagement