From the 18th century interpretations of Buddhism and Buddhist society was dominated by Europeans who, when they turned their attention to Tibet interpreted it largely through the lens of theology and religious leadership. This continued through the late 20th century. When anthropologists entered the field, a fresh and revealing picture of Tibetan culture emerged. Barbara Nimri was among the first foreign scholars whose careful research and fluency in Tibetan could challenge the dominance of textual scholars. Her first contributions were offered in 1980 at The Seminar in Tibetan Studies at Oxford University, UK hosted by Michael Aris and his wife Aung San Suu Kyi. In 1982, she was asked to convene the followup seminar at Columbia University, New York. (See Soundings in Tibetan Civilization, papers presented at that conference, co-edited by BN Aziz and M. Kapstein.) Her work marked the entry of a new generation trained in sociology and with a command of colloquial Tibetan.
This 1980 photo of Oxford University conference of Tibetology includes eminent scholars David Snellgrove, Sandy McDonald, Géza Uray, Helga Uebach, Samten Karmay, Heather Stoddard, Per Kværne, Nick Allen, Anne Marie Blondeau, Jampa Panglung and Turrell V. Wylie