The focus will be on the contested histories of Tibet and official discourses relating to Tibetan identity. We will examine the sharply contrasting histories produced by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Tibetan exiles and how they reflect differing historical sources, nationalist assumptions, and hegemonic narratives. The course will begin with the origins of Tibet-China contact during the Tibetan Imperium and the Tang Dynasty in the 7th-9th centuries and the subsequent relations between them in the Ming, Yuan, Qing, and Republican periods, as well as how Tibetan histories have shifted in accordance with new narratives in the PRC and the Tibetan exile community. We will examine propaganda produced by both groups, as well as historical sources and historical studies, and will evaluate the background of claims and counter-claims, the pragmatic purposes behind them, and how they are disseminated and appropriated by their intended audiences.
Tibet looms large in the Chinese imaginaire, and a well-funded effort is being made to create a regime of truth among Tibetan and non-Tibetan citizens as well as the larger global community. These discourses are profoundly important to many Chinese and to the leadership of the PRC, and they factor into China’s dealings with other countries. For these reasons, it is important to understand exactly what claims are being made, their context, and the background of these controversial histories and representations.
Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
- Demonstrate knowledge of the main events of the contested histories and representations of Tibet, identify the major actors and their roles, and describe how they are portrayed by PRC histories and by Tibetan exiles;
- Explicate the assumptions behind these discourses and why they are accepted by some groups but not others;
- Identify the varieties of official discourse (didactic, exhortative, propaganda, etc.) and how they function with their intended audiences;
- Critically analyse official discourses and unpack the underlying motives behind their articulation and propagation;
- Communicate their analysis in problem-oriented essay questions and research essays.
(1) an examination at midterm (35%)
(2) a 3,000 word research essay due at the conclusion of lectures (35%)
(3) tutorial performance (10%)
(4) written submission of regular tutorial questions (20%), including the quality of written questions and the level of engagement with and insight into the readings they demonstrate, and contributions to tutorial discussions. The essays and tutorials will directly relate to the learning outcomes identified above. They will require core knowledge of Tibetan history and ability to critically analyse the material discussed in the course. The tutorial grade will be assessed as follows: (1) 10% for tutorial performance; (2) 20% for quality of questions, level of engagement with readings, and how successfully they stimulate discussion.
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There will be three hours of class teaching and approximately seven hours of preparatory work per week for students.
Requisite and Incompatibility
John Powers, History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles Versus the People’s Republic of China (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
John Powers, Patriot Claims: How the People’s Republic of China Works to Define and Control Tibetan Religious Belief and Practice (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, in press).
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- Unit value:
- 6 units
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