Job title: Reader

Role: Director of Research, History of Art

Tel: +44 (0) 131 650 2340


Office address: Room 0.49, Higgitt Gallery, Hunter Building

Contact time: By appointment

Research outputs: Dr Halle O'Neal on Edinburgh Research Explorer

Halle O’Neal, a specialist in Japanese Buddhist art, is a Reader and Director of Research in the History of Art department and an Associate in Research at Harvard University, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies. Previously, she worked as a Mellon Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University. Her research and teaching explore areas of word and image, relics and reliquaries, invisibility in visual and material culture, reuse and recycling, performativity, and the spectacular visualisations of Buddhist embodiment. O'Neal is the co-director of the Edinburgh Buddhist Studies network and sits on the editorial boards of Art in Translation and Art Bulletin.

She is the recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Research Fellowship in Buddhist Studies for 2020-21, during which time she will develop her current monograph project, “Writing against Death: Reuse and Recycling in Japanese Buddhist Manuscripts.” This project explores the materiality of death and mourning and the visualisation of memory and embodiment in Japanese letter sutras.

  • Blood, bones, bodies: Buddhist relics in Asia (4th year)
  • Visions of the Buddha: Religious art in medieval Japan (3rd year)
  • Lectures for History of Art 1 (1st year)
  • Lectures for Art History: Texts, Objects, Institutions (3rd year)
  • Lectures for Global Middle Ages core course (MSc)

Research Interests

  • Japanese Buddhist art
  • Word and image studies 
  • Relics and reliquaries
  • Performativity
  • Death commemorations in visual and material culture
  • Palimpsests
  • Digital Humanities


Select publications


Forthcoming and contracted publications

2020: with Paul Harrison. “Translating Sacred Forms: Textual Pagodas in China, Korea, and Japan.” In Routledge Handbook of Translation and Religion, ed. Hephzibah Israel.

2021: “Objects and Materiality.” In Bloomsbury Handbook of Japanese Religions, ed. Erica Baffelli, Andrea Castiglione, and Fabio Rambelli.

2022: “Marking Death: Stamped Buddhas and Embodied Writing.” Ars Orientalis 52

2022: with Claire-Akiko Brisset. “Reusing, Recycling, and Repurposing Across Japanese Cultural Productions.” Ars Orientalis 52.


In progress

Book: Writing Against Death: Reuse and Recycling in Japanese Buddhist Manuscripts.

Article: “There, but Not Seen: The Paradoxical Case of Invisibility in Buddhist Visual Culture.”


Select fellowships and awards

2021-22: Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship

2020-21: ACLS Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Research Fellowship in Buddhist Studies

2017-19: British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant

2017: College Art Association (CAA) Millard Meiss Publication Fund for Word Embodied

2017: Japan Art History Forum (JAHF) First Book Subvention Prize for Word Embodied

Current PhD students

PhD Supervision Topics

  • Japanese Buddhist art
  • Buddhist art
  • Relics and reliquaries
  • Word and image studies