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A Joint Event: Emerging Powers Programme (Department of Politics and International Relations DPIR), University of Westminster and Department of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS), University of Birmingham.

Organisers: Dr Dibyesh Anand (Westminster) and Dr Tsering Topgyal (Birmingham)

Rationale

Three themes best capture the complexity of contemporary Tibet. First, the politics of development, transformation, change and transition is a fact of life for the Tibetans today. ‘Development’, along with ‘stability’ enforcement, has been the centre piece of China’s Tibet policy since 1978. Unsurprisingly, the language of development is one of the key justifications used by the Chinese to legitimate their rule over Tibet; unsurprisingly, because the language of development/modernisation has been an age-old discursive tool used by imperialists and colonialists of all stripes. The politics laden language and practice of development notwithstanding, the Tibetans both inside and outside have to adapt to various transformations. The second theme is a ‘culture of resistance’. The Tibetan regions have of course experienced cycles of repression and resistance since 1949, but since the general uprising in 2008, the Tibetans have made most aspects of their lives, from the ‘mundane’ act of farming to the high arts of music, poetry and modern art, part of their resistance effort and used various instruments, from lyrical voices and poetry and flowing pens to burning bodies in their practice of resistance. In keeping with the recent definitions of culture, one can safely posit that resistance has become integral to Tibetan culture. Conversely, it can also be postulated that Tibetan culture has engendered uniquely Tibetan forms of resistance. Between the parameters of development and resistance, many other things are happening on the Tibetan plateau that point to a crisis of multiple dimensions. The third theme is the international dimension of the Tibet question. How Tibet is represented, perceived and engaged with in the international arena, especially in the West and in India, is crucial because it affects not only the claims of who has legitimacy over Tibet but also the lives of the Tibetan diaspora. Given this complexity, only a joint, multi-disciplinary scholarly effort can make sense of this multi-faceted reality; hence, this conference.

This one-day conference will consist of three panels.

Programme

  • 10am: Registration and tea
  • 10:20am: Welcome and opening remarks
  • 10:30-12:15: Panel 1: Transformation and (Re)Assertion of Tibetan Identity, Chair: Tsering Topgyal
  • Katia Buffetrille, EPHE, Sorbonne, France. 'Holier than thou': Amdo Nomads between the 'hammer' of sedentarisation and the 'anvil' of vegetarianism
  • Katia Pisetzky, School of Oriental and African Studies. 'On Becoming Tibetan: the poetics of writing a nation and the silences of crafting a state’
  • James Connell, University of Birmingham. ‘Class, Counter-memory and Youth Consciousness in Exile’

Lunch Break: 12:15-1:15pm

  • 1:15-3:15pm Panel 2: Chinese Policies and Tibetan Resistance Chair: Dibyesh Anand
  • Martin Mills, University of Aberdeen. The Tibetan Self-Immolations and Developments in the PRC.
  • Imogen Clark, University of Oxford, Tibetan Resistance: A Sartorial Perspective from Exile
  • Lama Jabb, Oxford University. Remembering 10th March in Contemporary Tibetan Poetry
  • Kate Saunders, International Campaign for Tibet. 'The teeth of the storm': the new narrative of cultural resilience as a challenge to Chinese control

Coffee Break: 3:15-3.45pm

  • 3:45-5:30pm Panel 3: The International Politics of Tibet Chair: Martin Mills
  • Tsering Topgyal, University of Birmingham. ‘China’s “Discursive Control” of Tibet in the International Arena’
  • Seokbae Lee, University of Westminster. ‘Revisiting China and India’s National Interests in Tibet: A Rationalist Approach’
  • Dibyesh Anand, University of Westminster. 'Rethinking India as a Host for Tibetan Diaspora’

Closing remarks: 5:30pm

About the Speakers

Dr Dibyesh Anand is Head of Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Westminster. He is the author of ‘Geopolitical Exotica: Tibet in Western Imagination’, ‘Hindu Nationalism in India and the Politics of Fear’, and numerous articles and papers.

Dr Katia Buffetrille is a anthropologist and Tibetologist, researcher at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and director of the online review: Études mongoles et sibériennes, centrasiatiques et tibétaines (emscat.revues.org).

Imogen Clark is a doctoral candidate at Oxford University, specialising in material anthropology and museum ethnography with focus on the Tibetan diaspora. She has recently returned from 13 months of fieldwork in the Tibetan refugee communities of Dharamsala and Ladakh, India.

James Connell is a PhD Candidate with the International Development Department at the University of Birmingham. His research explores themes of political violence, cultural trauma and youth consciousness among Tibetan refugee youth.

Dr Lama Jabb is Junior Research Fellow in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, Oxford University. Currently, he is studying the genre of Tibetan bird stories within its broader cultural framework, particularly focusing on the volume The Treasury of Intellect: Narrating the Worldly tale of the Winged Ones.

Seokbae Lee is Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Westminster in London. He is currently conducting doctoral research on China-India relations and Tibet.

Dr Martin A. Mills is Head of Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen and Co-Director of the Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research. He is a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Tibet.

Kate Saunders is a writer and Communications Director for the International Campaign for Tibet. Kate's articles have been published in leading British, American and Asian newspapers and magazines. She has authored or co-authored numerous reports on Tibet and the book Eighteen Layers of Hell: Stories from the Chinese Gulag (Cassell, 1996).

Katia Tzarkova Pisetzky is a PhD Candidate at SOAS, University of London. She is studying contemporary transnational Tibetan literature and the ways in which Tibetan writers construct a national identity through the literary imagination.

Dr Tsering Topgyal is lecturer in International Relations at the University of Birmingham. Tsering's research and teaching interests include Chinese foreign policy and ethnic conflicts, Asia-Pacific international politics, Sino-Indian relations, and Sino-Tibetan conflict.