The struggle for visibility (documents) has always played a central role for Tibetans living in exile, especially for those living in India and Nepal. In this post, I look into this struggle that Tibetans in India face as newly arrived Tibetans from Tibet (second half) and Tibetans born and raised there (first half). During my stays in Dharamsala, India, I came across several different socio-cultural-political-economic phenomenons that have been emerging as a result of the lack of visibility for Tibetans living as, what I refer to as non-refugee refugees, in bureaucratic India. In the following, I take a closer look at one of these emerging intercultural phenomenon currently shaping the possibility of existing on paper for Tibetans especially from Tibet that bureaucratic India has yet to offer.
When some members of the Lhakar Diaries family contacted me to see if I could do an interview with her, I was more than excited since I had been thinking about it for some time-it also helped that I am currently in Dharamsala. When I contacted Dhardon la, she was more than accommodating. She took some time off her busy schedule and we did a quick interview over some tea.
The following post is a section in Ch. 2 “There Is a Tension in Our Hearts” from the book Echoes from Dharamsala by Keila Diehl (2002, p57-62).
Harris brings back to life documents and images from a range of colonial archives, and includes accounts and fictions published by British officers, ethnographers, soldiers and Asia-Tibet enthusiasts of that time to piece together how the myth of the exotic Tibet-an came into existence in the West. Her analysis is based on exploring the discursive formation of how the West came to imagine Tibet and its inhabitants.
What does an ethnographic discourse on the invisibility of a colonial empire in the 21st century look like? What does that invisibility contribute to, or rather take away from, the experiences of Tibetans inside and outside Tibet? In this post, I examine the historical and contemporary discourses on Tibet that frame Tibet as either not colonized or about human rights, which, I argue, silences Tibetan aspirations for Nationhood. Aside from contextualizing Tibetan subjectivities, I contribute to the ongoing discourse on how ethnographic narratives can re-construct the invisibility of existing colonial empires and justify their presence as a given right rather than foreign.
For the past month, as the number of self-immolations climbed, my adviser and I sat down several times, trying to figure out activities we can do to highlight the situation better here at the University I’m currently studying at. Then last week, I saw the video campaign with messages to world leaders launched by SFT spreading in the web-sphere.
Ben Hillman–a Senior Lecturer at the Crawford School of public policy, Australian National University–wrote an article called “China’s many Tibets: Diqing as a model for ‘development with Tibetan characteristics?’” (2010). He details the economic success, through the government-funded tourist industry, of Shangri-La, a Tibetan town in Kham, as a model that the Chinese authorities can follow for “China’s many other Tibets”. However, in his eager attempt to support his argument for Shangri-La as a successful model, Hillman fails to acknowledge China’s historical role in that region, the popular resistance that occurred before and during the time period he covers, or further analysis of local involvement in the tourist industry.
Just when it felt like all news on Tibet was getting sadder, Shapaley dropped “Tsampa” this Wednesday on Lhakar.
As a Tibetan, I am sure most of you can relate when I say, I’ve had the “Tibet was never part of China” history, full MC-style, battles with more Chinese than I’d like to remember. The amazing part of all this is how convinced most of these Chinese individuals, even the most well meaning, are about the truth of their historical version of China’s Tibet.
So, how then do you begin having a dialogue with these different individuals when—according to them—you don’t even know the truth about your own history?
Han chauvinism, in other words, Racism, seemed to have been the big issue in 1953. It’s too bad that this report only highlights a small fraction of the officials that felt this way then.
I’ve been reading Ann Stoler’s book, “Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power” and it has been making me think a lot about the role of the State in creating and/or encouraging cultural attitudes, such as racism, through the implementation of laws. Although Stoler’s archival ethnography focuses more on how these legislation affected the intimate lives of mixed children and their white/native parents with a focus on women at that time; for the purposes of this post, I want to center this discussion on the State.