Tibetan Identity: Transformations within the Diaspora

By Yosay Wangdi.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

On the discourse on Tibetan identity even when Tibet remained practically independent of any Chinese control (in the early years of the 20th century), the internal tensions and divisions persisted in Tibetan society. The 13th Dalai Lama’s attempts to modernize and generate national unity was unsuccessful due to internal conflicts. Tibetan society on the eve of the Chinese invasion, was not a homogenous society. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) skillfully exploited this infighting and schisms. An ironical and unintentional boon, the 1959 invasion unwittingly awakened Tibetans to a deep feeling of what it means to be a Tibetan. Invasion by an outside power, aroused for the first time powerful emotions and pride in being part of the Tibetan nation. Without doubt, the essential construction of Tibetan identity comes from the “Lama culture.” Concurrently, as Tibetans take pride in retaining and sustaining old residual cultural norms, new ones are being grafted onto the old. This paper examines the role of culture in the dynamic transformations occurring in what is understood as Tibetan nationalism.
Central to this analysis are the challenges facing the diaspora community. Within this framework, I will examine the developments taking into account the differentiations and concurrent tensions of: us vs them, homogenous identity vs multiple identity, and autonomy vs independence (Rang Dbang vs Rang Btsan). The purpose of this paper is to articulate a realistic image of Tibetans at a crucial moment when the new generation of Tibetans are feeling thwarted and hindered in their goals by the current political options offered by the exile government. Within this framework, I will explore the various developments that are forging a new dynamic into the character of Tibetan thought and identity. The goal is to analyze the emerging trends as a way to understand transformations in Tibetan self-understanding.

Keywords: Tibetan Identity, Challenges Facing the Diaspora Community

Global Studies Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.91-100. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 574.064KB).

Dr. Yosay Wangdi

Assistant Professor, Department of History, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, USA

Dr. Yosay Wangdi is a second generation Tibetan from India, currently working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. Her Ph.D. dissertation, “Echoes of an Agonized Nation: Transformations in Tibetan Identity in Diaspora,” articulates the new Tibetan identity now emerging in Diaspora Tibet.


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