International Encyclopaedia
of the Histories of Anthropology

While Joan Halifax (1942-) is known as a major protagonist in committed Buddhism and a Zen roshi expert on end-of-life care and spirituality, her career as an anthropologist working alongside prominent academic figures of the discipline is less well known. Her academic career began in the 1960s at Columbia University with Alan Lomax. Her stay at the Musée de l’Homme and her meeting with Roger Bastide and Jean Rouch sparked her interest in mental health and dying. She is one of the key figures in the popularisation and institutionalisation of shamanism in the West. The process of building her respectability as a religious expert is the result of multiple circulation – geographical (between the United States, Mexico, Europe and Asia), disciplinary (between ethnomusicology, medical anthropology, shamanism, transpersonal psychology, palliative care and Buddhism) and statutory, navigating between the academic institution and its margins.

Keywords: Ethnomusicology | Psychology | Medical Anthropology | Psychiatry | Religious expert | Second half of the 20th century | 21st century | United States of America | Shamanism | Death | Committed Buddhism | Mental health | Musée de l’Homme | Alan Lomax