AcknowledgementsSo many people have worked together to manifest this project that it is impossible to recognize and acknowledge each and every one of them. Here I would like to acknowledge first of all Sarah Barr, for inspiring me to dare to think outside the academic box, and to thank her for her priceless sense of humor, and her unfailing support, and Molly Mead, one of the most courageous and daring women I know. Beyond Shangri-La could not have come into being without their generosity and support, as well as without the assistance of the entire staff of the Center for Community Engagement at Amherst College (https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/cce). I would like to thank also all the guest speakers who enlivened our semester: a special thanks goes to John Kunhardt and Peter Marvin, from Amherst College’s Academic Technology Services, who taught all of us how to navigate technology with kindness and humor; to the filmmaker extraordinaire Mickey Lemle who shared his knowledge and wisdom with generosity and enthusiasm (http://www.lemlepictures.com/); and Jenny Morgan, who has given a tremendous amount of time and energy to making us all understand how everything, from software to hardware to websites, works and why, and to http://Soundcloud.com for offering hosting space for our audio content.
Of course, my gratitude also goes to the Amherst College departments (my own as well as the many others that have collaborated with us), the Mead Art Museum, and to the Amherst College administration and staff that have so generously contributed to create an environment in which Tibetan culture can be once more be appreciated, and recognized on our campus; and to the Five College Buddhist Studies faculty (https://www.fivecolleges.edu/buddhism), with a special nod to Professor Jay Garfield at Smith College and Professor Sue Darlington at Hampshire College, who run the wonderful Five College Tibetan Studies in India program (http://www.smith.edu/philosophy/tibet.html), that have helped, directly and indirectly, to inspire this project, to enlist students, and to sponsor events and activities that enhanced and energized the course.
But I must confess that my great accomplices in this enterprise have been my amazing students: I could not have asked for better and (more fun!) companions on this journey, and all their teachings I will carry with me for a long time. And wherever you may go, guys, on your journeys to Tibet, Shangri-La, and beyond, may happiness follow you, like your shadow, unshakeable (and don’t forget to send pictures!).
Naturally, none of this would be possible without our interviewees, and I am full of gratitude for their generosity and courage. Their stories speak of their human qualities much more eloquently than my words will ever manage to, so I invite you to listen to them and learn from them directly, about Tibet, about their culture, and how about how they embody it in this 21st century dimension we all share. My hope is that these first interviews will inspire many other Tibetans living in the diaspora to come and share their stories with us all, so that their voices and their stories will not be lost for many generations to come. And last but not least, I would like to thank Professor Namkhai Norbu, who has set for me such a shining example of what it means to preserve and transmit the precious Tibetan heritage in all its multifaceted and amazing aspects while negotiating the uncertain landscapes of a changing world as a diasporic Tibetan subject. It was through his scholarly work, and the activities of the Shang Shung Institute for International Tibetan Studies, which he founded in Italy in 1989 (http://www.shangshunginstitute.org/index.php/en/), that I first met Tibetan literature and philosophy as a college student at the Universita’ Ca’ Foscari, more than twenty years ago. It was thus his life-long dedication to learning, researching, and teaching Tibetan culture, so beautifully integrated with his engagement with the world we live in, that led me to dream about teaching a course like Beyond Shangri-La in the first place. That this dream has finally come true is, first and foremost, a testament to the power of his teachings and of his vision.