Job title: Reader in Japanese Art (on research leave)

Role: Co-Director of Edinburgh Buddhist Studies

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 is a Reader in Japanese Buddhist art in the History of Art department and Co-Director of Edinburgh Buddhist Studies at the University of Edinburgh. 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 material culture, reuse and recycling, performativity, and the spectacular visualisations of Buddhist embodiment. O'Neal is an Associate in Research at Harvard University, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and sits on the editorial boards of Art in Translation and Art Bulletin.

She is the current recipient of a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, 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 mourning, the visualisation of memory, and the haptic experience of Japanese palimpsests.


Select publications

Forthcoming and contracted publications

  • 2021: with Paul Harrison. “Bodies of Words: Translating Sacred Text into Sacred Architecture in East Asian Buddhism.” In Routledge Handbook of Translation and Religion, ed. Hephzibah Israel.
  • 2022: “Marking Death: Stamped Buddhas and Embodied Writing.” Ars Orientalis 52.
  • 2022: “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.”


  • 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 and haptic nature of manuscripts
  • Death commemorations in visual and material culture
  • Palimpsests
  • Digital Humanities

Recent 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

  • Tradition-rediscovery and Trans-cultural Dialogues: Chen Shizeng and Beijing School of Painting, 1876-1923

PhD Supervision Topics

Accepting applications.

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