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Associate Academic Unit Head, Associate Professor of Religion
Year Started at JMU: 2016
Contact Info
Pronouns: she/her



Ph.D. University of Virginia, Tibetan Buddhism and Sino-Tibetan Religions
M.T.S. Harvard Divinity School, Buddhist Studies
B.A. Davidson College, Religious Studies, Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa


Dr. Kilby is a specialist in Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhist literary arts. As a Fulbright-Hays scholar, she undertook nine months of fieldwork in Tibetan (Amdo) and Chinese communities where she honed ongoing interests both in contemporary Tibetan religious life and in the status of Buddhism in the modern Chinese state. Her current research explores how religion informs human experiences of conflict, displacement, and security. She has consulted extensively for the International Committee of the Red Cross initiative on "The Interface Between Buddhism and International Humanitarian Law: Reducing Suffering During Armed Conflict."


Dr. Kilby teaches courses in Buddhist studies, religions of the world, and refugee studies. She is developing a new course on Religion and the Law of War.



Buddhism and Displacement: A Critical Analysis at the Intersection of Religion, Humanitarianism, and Law. Research monograph in progress, under contract with Routledge.

"Call For a Buddhism-Inspired Asian Regional Compact on Internal Displacement.” 2024. Forthcoming in International Relations.

"Dispatches to the Spirit World: Orality, Literacy, and Power in Tibetan Letters to Gods, Demons, and Oracles." 2024. Forthcoming in Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines.

"The World Is Without Shelter, Without Protector: Buddhism, the Protection of Displaced People, and International Humanitarian Law." 2023. In Religion, Religious Groups, and Migration, ed. Deniz Cosan Eke and Eric TrinkaLondon: Transnational Press.

"Legal Reasoning about Displacement and Responsibility: A Dialogue Between the Buddhist Monastic Discipline and International Humanitarian Law." 2023. Journal of Buddhist Ethics 30: 231-254. 10/Kilby_23_FD-final.pdf

Buddhism and International Humanitarian Law. 2023. Ed. Andrew Bartles-Smith, Kate Crosby, Peter Harvey, Asanga Tilakaratne, Daniel Ratheiser, Noel Maurer Trew, Stefania Travagnin, Elizabeth J. Harris, Venerable Mahinda Deegalle, and Christina A. Kilby. New York: Routledge.

"The Poetry of Being Human: Toward a Tibetan Wisdom Literature." 2023. In Living Treasure: Tibetan and Buddhist Studies in Honor of Janet Gyatso. Ed. Holly Gayley and Andrew Quintman. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.

"Pakpa's Epistolary Manual." 2023. In Histories of Tibet: Essays in Honor of Leonard W. J. van der Kuijp. Ed. Kurtis R. Schaeffer, Jue Liang, and William A. McGrath. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.

"Buddhism, Immigrants, and Refugees." Oxford Bibliographies in Buddhism. 2022. DOI:

"Once the Buddha Was Displaced: A Humanitarian Reading of the Vessantara Jātaka.” 2022. International Committee for the Red Cross, Religion and Humanitarian Principles.

"The Gift of Fearlessness: A Buddhist Framework for the Protection of Vulnerable Populations Under International Humanitarian Law." 2022. Contemporary Buddhism, DOI:

"A Humanitarian Re-reading of the Angulimala Sutta.” 2021. International Committee for the Red Cross, Religion and Humanitarian Principles.

"Humanizing the Divine Childhood: Epistolography as Human Formation in Tibetan Buddhism." 2021. Numen 68 (4): pp. 336-356. DOI:

"Printing Tibetan Epistolaria: A Bibliographical Analysis of Epistolary Transformations from Manuscript to Xylograph." 2020. The Journal of Epistolary Studies Vol. 2 (1): 19-33. DOI:

"The Buddha’s Positionality." 2020. Wabash Center Journal on Teaching, Volume 1 (1). DOI:

"The Global Refugee Crisis and the Gift of Fearlessness." 2019. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Vol. 26: 307-327.

"Bowing with Words: Paper, Ink, and Bodies in Tibetan Buddhist Epistles." 2019. Journal of the American Academy of Religion Vol. 87 (1): 260-281. DOI:

“Buddha Dhamma.” 2017. In Religions of India, pp. 107-137. Ed. Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby. New York: Routledge.


Recent Conference Presentations:

"Mandalas of Security: Buddhist Approaches to Resilience and Humanitarian Relief." Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion. San Antonio, TX: 2024.

"Assessing the Proportionality of Incidental Injury and Damage in Conflict-Induced Displacement: Buddhist Guidance for Decision Makers." Presentation at Reducing Suffering During Armed Conflict: The Interface Between Buddhism and International Humanitarian Law. Chiang Mai, Thailand. 2022.

"The Gift of Fearlessness: A Buddhist Principle of Protection." Presentation at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. 2022.

"Speech, Script, and the Shamanic-Clerical Paradigm: Insights from Tibetan Letters to Gods, Demons, and Oracles." Presentation at the International Seminar of Young Tibetologists, University of Virginia. 2022.

"The Limits of Karma: Humanitarian Crises and the Ethics of Governmental Responsibility." Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (virtual). 2021.

"Buddhism, International Humanitarian Law, and the Protection of Internally Displaced People." Presentation at The Migration Conference (virtual). 2021.

"Conflict-Induced Displacement and the Gift of Fearlessness: A Buddhist Framework for Refugee and IDP Protection under International Humanitarian Law." Presentation at Reducing Suffering During Armed Conflict: The Interface Between Buddhism and IHL. Dambulla, Sri Lanka. 2019.

"Wisdom, Straight and Crooked: On Wisdom’s Eloquence in Tibetan Literature." Presentation at the XV Seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies. Paris, France. 2019.

"Global Refugee Crisis and the Gift of Fearlessness." Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion. Denver, CO. 2018.

"Negotiating Identities at the Nexus of Fear: Refugees, the State, and the Gift of Fearlessness." Presentation at the Association of Asian Studies Annual Meeting. Washington, D.C. 2018.


Listen to Dr. Kilby's May 2023 interview on With Good Reason here: "Buddhism and Warfare."  

Listen to Dr. Kilby's July 2019 interview on With Good Reason here: "Religion in the Refugee Camp."

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