LIVING WITH "TIBET": THE LOCAL, THE TRANSLOCAL, AND THE CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY OF DHARAMSALA Open Access

Chen, Susan T. (2009)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/2801pg59s?locale=en
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Abstract

This dissertation pursues two interrelated objectives. First, it examines the subjectivity formations of Tibetans constructed around but sometimes also noticeably deviating from the discourse of the Tibetan nation which the Dharamsala-based Tibetan polity-in-exile has cultivated since the early
1960s. By focusing on the locally and translocally lived quotidian lives and their representation of two groups of Tibetan exiles in Dharamsala, those who often call themselves the "India-born" and those whose more recent trans-Himalayan arrival from the homeland earns them the notorious reputation of "newcomers," I explicate the ways in which the very subjective cognitive and emotional states of individual Tibetans intersect with larger sociocultural and political structural factors real to them. Second, it explores what I term "the Tibetan cultural geography of Dharamsala." Counter to the well known yet often reified and narrow definition of Dharamsala as the capital-in-exile of the nation-state Tibet, I argue that the diversely lived life worlds of Tibetans - as exemplified in the cases of India-born cohorts and newcomers - render the dynamics and multiplicity of the locale's Tibetan significance. By utilizing the method of ethnographic fieldwork - primarily in Dharamsala but also including intermittent travel to other South Asian Tibetan settlements and the Tibetan areas in China, my inquiry on the subjectivities of a people and the cultural geography of a place elicit domains of Tibetans' experience which are emerging but yet to be articulated. Given that "Tibet" and "Tibetans" have for decades been locked inside the competing ground of image representation participated in by the elites of the nation and their international supporters and by their Chinese adversaries, the emergent nuances of everyday thinking and practice which this dissertation emphasizes are urgently needed and meant to be interventional, presenting my attempt to broaden and complicate what has been known of the people and the exilic establishment of their nation.

Table of Contents

Prologue A Post-2008 Clarification Chapter 1: Introduction to Dharamsala and Tibetans Chapter 2: Focal Groups, Methodology, and Implications

Chapter 3: Tibetans Who Call Themselves the India-Born (1): Exile as a Sedentary Experience

Chapter 4: Tibetans Who Call Themselves the India-Born (2): Wayfinding and Landscape Representations

Chapter 5: Tibetans Who Call Themselves the India-Born (3): When the History of the Nation Becomes Quotidian

An Interlude
Chapter 6: "They Are the Newcomers" (1): Trans-Himalayan Mobility or One Aspect of Homeland Tibetans' Agency

Chapter 7: "They Are the Newcomers" (2): Living with "Tibet" in Dharamsala

Chapter 8: Conclusion: Differences Matter

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