Category Archive: Decolonize

Interview on Gender and Leadership in the Tibetan Exile Community

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Interview for CTA’s “Tibetan Women’s Day” 2020.

Topics disused are: women’s leadership, notions of empowerment, spiritual liberation, gender violence, neoliberalism, colonial violence, exile, alienation

Lecture at UCLA on Chinese Colonialism in Tibet

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The following is video of a lecture I gave at UCLA’s (University of Los Angeles) Asia Pacific Center November 5, 2021, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM (Pacific Time).

Decolonizing ‘Tibetan’ Studies: Empire, Ethnicity, and Rethinking Sovereignty

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Who are Tibetans? How have they been framed as objects for study across time? For earlier Western academics and the audiences who read their work, Tibetans were a people largely defined by religious beliefs and institutions. In this presentation, I argue that this emphasis in early Tibetan Studies set a precedent for sidelining Tibetan sovereignty as a central concern in both scholarship and in real world politics, a trend which continues to impact the field and Tibetan lives today. While researchers were interested in understanding the structural authority and functions of the sovereign, their Orientalizing renderings often sidelined analysis of Tibet’s geopolitical history and developments in central Asia as an empire and nation. This deprioritizing necessarily ignores the rich body of Indigenous history transmitted through literary production and oral traditions produced by Tibetans for Tibetan audiences that dates back centuries. A chronological examination of scholarly productions on Tibet undertaken predominantly by Western scholars reveals the making of Tibetan Studies as a Western academic subject based on ideas and interpretations of Tibetans by Westerners. Similarly, modern Chinese scholarship on Tibet has been heavily influenced by Orientalist Western traditions. Both demonstrate the importance of acknowledging histories of representation.

Are Tibetans Indigenous?

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“Are Tibetans Indigenous? It depends who you ask. While Tibetans exposed to Indigenous sovereignty movements such as Idle No More and NoDAPL identify with indigeneity currently, the term was officially rejected decades earlier by the Tibetan apparatus in diaspora. Drawing on recent scholarship by Indigenous scholars, indigeneity as a term was a colonial construct. It was through this racial construction that the settler state proliferated the domination of Indigenous lands and bodies. However, many Indigenous organizers argue that the recent use of the term in mobilizing political solidarity across the globe against imperial-setter colonial-capitalist-governmentality has made the word too essential to abandon all together. Instead, Indigenous scholars have proposed ways of rethinking indigeneity that is decolonial. My paper draws on this scholarship to examine why Tibetans refused to identify as indigenous before yet claim it now. Using an historical approach, I examine the kinds of political stakes that were at risk in claiming the terminology earlier versus now. And why current redefinition of the word appeals to a younger generation of Tibetans growing up exposed to Indigenous movements in North America.”

Decolonial & Intersectional Interventions against (Neo)Liberal Feminism: Reflections on Tibetan Feminisms

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Over the course of few years, the Tibetan diaspora has seen a sharp rise in the number of Tibetan women who claim a feminist identity. What is Tibetan feminism, and how did it emerge? In the following, I track the rise of Tibetan feminism through the development of an online initiative called Tibetan Feminist Collective (TFC) based mostly in the west. Although TFC does not represent the diverse viewpoints of all women who identify as Tibetan and feminist, their version of feminism nonetheless becomes important to engage due to the initiative’s choice in leading and representing discussions regarding Tibetan feminism in Tibetan and non-Tibetan cyber and/or real worlds. Even though I use TFC as a Tibetan example of neoliberal feminism, they are not the only ones influenced by it. Other Tibetan women (alongside their male peers) not affiliated with TFC are also engaging neoliberal ideologies in shaping their individual pathways towards favorable professional outcomes that benefit themselves alone. Today we live in a world where the commodification of identities and activism, thanks to neoliberal ideologies, are so pervasive. Thus, it is important to think critically about the way neoliberalism shapes feminism (and other frameworks), and compromises their liberatory potential.

Tare Lhamo and Namtrul Rinpoche: Courtship & Healing in times of (Culture Revolution) Degeneration

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As discussed in previous chapters of Love Letters from Golok: A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet, Holly Gayley stresses how Tare Lhamo and Namtrul Rinpoche saw their religious engagement and activities in tandem with reviving Tibetan Buddhist culture following the destruction of the Chinese-led Culture Revolution.Before Tare Lhamo and Namtrul Rinpoche began their activities in reviving Tibetan Buddhism during the 1980s and 1990s together as a tantric couple, they began their official courtship through letters in the 1970s. These letters from the 1970s played a crucial role, argues Gayley, in shaping the couple’s future activities that came to fruition later. The following chapters engage these letters closely to consider how the couple came to view one another and their future together as a tantric couple through Indigenous and Buddhist idiom.

The Exceptional Tare Lhamo: Transcending Gender Through Agentive Means

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This is a continuation of my project to engage historic female figures of Tibet. Tare Lhamo is especially interesting because she was born before China’s invasion of Tibet, she lived through the invasion, followed by Culture Revolution until its end, and was part of the religious cohort in Tibet who began reviving Tibetan Buddhism from the destruction of Culture Revolution. She becomes an important figure to consider when we think about different subjectivities of Tibetan women in Tibetan history. I hope you’ll find the following analysis useful.

Decolonizing Ethnographic ‘Responsibility’: Towards a Decolonized Praxis

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what happens when the question of responsibility becomes one of obligation; choice becomes necessity, and crisis exists as an everyday reality?

The Art of (China’s) Colonialism: Constructing Invisibilities in (Tibetan) History and Geography

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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.