Cultural Anthropology-Tibet: Why?

© 2012 Dlo08

I have just started my MA program in Cultural Anthropology this past week. Things are going well and I am excited for what awaits. In one of my classes, my professor asked all the students to write an “Intellectual autobiography” to share how we came to choosing anthropology, what research we want to focus on and how we hope to use it “professionally”.

Here is part of the write up of what I want to focus my research on and what I hope to achieve with it. It is not clear as of now because I am still developing my research focus, I will keep my readers updated when I slowly figure things out.

I decided to go back to school because I wanted to be more capable and knowledgeable in understanding and amplifying the voices of Tibetans, both inside and outside. There are many books available on Tibet but most ignore the political aspect and aspirations of Tibetans. Within the realm of modern Tibetan literature (with the inclusion of the politics) in the academia, there are only few Tibetans who have been capable of doing justice to contemporary Tibet while influencing the current knowledge and discourse available on Tibet, and more importantly, with the approval of the Tibetan community. Faced with that frustration and the on-going problematic usage of “colonizing language” (see Decolonizing Methodologies by Linda Tuhiwai Smith 1999) used by non-Tibetan, Tibet scholars, I decided to try my hand in facing these challenges through ethnography to provide an alternative narrative to members of my community in the hope to empower the existing political struggle of Tibet. 

I plan to do an ethnographic research on the contemporary Tibetan political movement from the 1990’s to present with a focus of either inside or outside Tibet. It still needs to be narrowed down and as of now, I don’t know where this is going but that’s what I’ll be focusing on. My advisor is Carole McGranahan (Author of Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War, review by Tsering Shakya & Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa) and I’m pretty happy about that. Professionally I hope to be in a position to help in shaping the language from passive to assertive within the Tibetan political movement and the larger academic discourse, while continuing my on-going involvements with Tibetan political advocacy in receiving and giving training in non-violent resistance strategic theories, actions and technologies. 

With my research focus on Tibet, luckily for me, everyday will be Lhakar. I will try my best to examine and share the existing knowledges while trying/hoping to offer alternative ones and/with critical views. With this, I hope to encourage and empower the youth and our community at large.

As usual, please feel free to be constructively critical and challenging, albeit with respect.  Don’t hesitate to offer any extra knowledges or corrections that you see fit. I am always open and look forward to such comments. I will most likely not get all of the picture and I hope my readers will be helpful in offering their own knowledge that could help me with my research.

Before I leave, here is a picture of a story teller (we are all story tellers) in Lhasa with the following description:

“A [Lama Mani] storyteller using a thangka painting and telling (or rather, singing and chanting) a traditional story…This storyteller used a long iron pointer bound with ribbons to tell the life story of a religious teacher with the aid of the thangka. The painting is so worn that it is difficult to see any details on it. The story is told in chanted verses, pointing at the relevant part of the painting. In between these sections the teller bows, puts down the pointer and chants a prayer while holding rosary beads. From time to time the storyteller succeeded in gathering a small crowd in this Lhasa back street. The box in front of the painting is for donations.”

Click here to learn more the continuance of this tradition of Lama Mani storytellers in exile.