Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tibetan Diaspora: The construction of several Tibetan identities

From the moment the Dalai Lama stepped foot into exile, the Tibetan identity was uniquely challenged in response to the migration of Tibetans who followed the Dalai Lama into exile, those who migrated to Western countries, like America, and others who stayed within "China's Tibet". These three main groups categorize subcultures and alternate outlooks of the Tibetan identity. They often critique one another on not being Tibetan enough or assimilating to Sankritization, Americanization, or Sinicization. The rejection or fusion of other cultures upon Tibetan culture characterizes certain notions of authentic Tibetanness. Westerners are often seen romanticizing Tibet as a magnificent Shangri-La, frozen in time, and kept away from the fast-paced globalized world. However, Westerners are not the only ones who participate in romanticizing. Many scholars argue that the criteria of diasporic identities contains a great amount of imagination in constructing "mythico-history" (Malkki 1995) and "nostalgia without memory" (Appadurai 2000). In other words, the path of "becoming" Tibetan is, in part, forged by imagining the history and lifestyle of Tibet prior to 1959 and how one's identity becomes consistent with these views. Thus, romanticization is a necessary part of culture and should not be seen just as a Western phenomenon. In turn, this way of remembering Tibet also explains the creation and replication of Tibetan holidays and local events in places such as Dharamsala and California. While there are several commonalities that mark "Tibetan" as one identity, (i.e., tsampa-eaters, ancestry that stems from Tibet, and the recognition of the Dalai Lama as the spiritual leader) the lived experiences of Tibetans differ from region to region, creating subcultures of Tibetan identity. In congruence with mythico-history and "nostalgia without memory", certain aspects of culture that are uniquely Tibetan almost always take a different shape within the political, social, or economic milieu in the particular country of residence. Boellstorff explains this framework as "dubbing culture". "To 'dub' a discourse is neither to parrot it verbatim nor to compose an entirely new script. It is to hold together cultural logics without resolving them into a unitary whole" (2003:226). This paper will provide an analysis of the degree to which Tibetan diasporic identities have been dubbed and the reasoning for constructing this particular type of dubbed Tibetan identity.

(Paper is forthcoming...)

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