anthro in the news 10/10/16

Land rights are key in Colombia

Indigenous people want land rights. Source:
Indigenous people want land rights. Source:

The Washington Post published an op-ed by cultural anthropologist Omaira Bolaños, Latin America program director for the Rights and Resources Initiative. She argues for property rights reform: “One of the most devastating aspects of the war for me was to see indigenous, peasant, and Afro-Colombian communities who spent their entire lives investing in and caring for their territories suddenly left with nothing. Displacement has a particularly destructive impact, leading to the loss of livelihoods, languages and cultures, and to the tearing apart of social fabrics — in addition to the lives lost to violence. For a lasting peace to take root, the legal recognition of collective property rights for indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities would be an important step in addressing the war’s damages and in continuing a process of comprehensive land reform.”

Disney-ification of Tibetan culture

Tibetans perform for tourists. Source: Getty Images/Kevin Frayer
Tibetans perform for tourists. Source: Getty Images/Kevin Frayer

An article in The Washington Post described the effects of the ever-growing number of Chinese tourists in Tibet. It quotes P. Christiaan Klieger, a San-Francisco-based cultural anthropologist, historian, and writer:  “It is very similar to how the United States treated its developing West 100 years ago…They are commodifying the native people and bringing them out as an ethnic display for the consumption of people back east.” Other critics point out that such domestic tourism is part of a plan to bind Tibet ever more tightly into China. Tourism development trivializes Tibet’s culture, marginalizes its people, and pollutes the environment. Tibetans are neither consulted nor empowered in this process. The top jobs and most of the profits go to companies and people from elsewhere in China.

Continue reading “anthro in the news 10/10/16”

DC event at GW on China's Tibet Policy

Multilevel Governance as a Framework for Regionalization and the Question of Tibet: Recent Developments and New Prospects for China’s Tibet Policy

When: Monday, November 17th, 12-1pm

Where: Elliott School of International Affairs, 1957 E Street NW, conference room 501,
Washington, DC, 20052

Tash Rabgey is a Research Professor in the Institute of Global and International Affairs and Director of its Tibet Governance Project. Rabgey, the first Tibetan Rhodes scholar, has two law degrees and a doctorate in social anthropology from Harvard University.

RSVP here!

Sponsored by The Institute for Global and International Studies (IGIS). Co-sponsored by the Tibet Governance Project and Culture in Global Affairs Program of IGIS.


Anthro in the news 11/10/14

  • Managing the Himalayan Viagra harvest

The International Business Times carried an article about the harvesting of the plant in two isolated Tibetan communities that is the basis for Viagra. The medicinal fungus is fetching big money in the Chinese market. The fungus used as an aphrodisiac, yartsa gunbu (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) results from a fungal infection in ground-burrowing ghost moth caterpillars. Research from Washington University in St. Louis reports on the unique management plan to conserve the natural resource. Most villages in the region earn 80% of their annual income during the caterpillar fungus spring harvest season. Continue reading “Anthro in the news 11/10/14”

Anthro in the news 7/7/14

  • Crypto-colonialism


Michael Hertzfeld. Source: Harvard University.

An article in The Himalayan Times (Nepal) described how the concept of crypto-colonialism, as introduced in 2002 by cultural anthropologist Michael Herzfeld of Harvard University, applies to Nepal as well as Greece and Thailand, where Herzfeld initially researched it. [Blogger’s note: A vimeo made in 2012 provides an update on Herzfeld’s thinking about crypto-colonialism].

  • Jewels of the desert
A girl and her Llama. Source: Thomas Quine.

Archaeologists from the University of Wroclaw have uncovered 150 graves of a little known community that inhabited the Peruvian side of the Atacama Desert prior to the 7th century C.E. According to archaeologist Jozef Szykulski of the Institute of Archaeology of Wraclow University, Poland: “These burials are of the virtually unknown people who inhabited the area before the expansion of the Tiwanaku civilization.” Continue reading “Anthro in the news 7/7/14”

GW event: Multilingual Proficiency and Employment Opportunities for Tibetans

Case Study of Rebgong

Monday, May 20, 2013
Mickey East Conference room, suite 501, 5th floor
Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E Street NW

Yumkyi Dolma is a graduate student at the Central Minzu University in Beijing who specializes in education. She has conducted fieldwork on the impact of multilingual education in the northeastern region of Amdo (Qinghai province). She is currently completing a visiting fellowship at the University of Maryland where she focused her studies on sociolinguistics.

Co-sponsored by the Global Policy Forum

Applications invited for Summer Enrichment Program in Tibet

Machik is once again offering its Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). All volunteers must arrive on July 12th, and depart on August 10th. There will be a mandatory orientation for all volunteers on July 13, 14, and 15. Please read the application guidelines carefully before initiating your application. Application deadline is March 25, 2013.

Upcoming Tibet event

Tibet Revealed

When: Thurs, July 26 | 7:00pm
Where: Terra Hotel Ballroom
Jackson Hole, WY

Multimedia presentation by Jimmy Chin, with a sneak preview of his latest film work, and auction of unique items and rare experiences.


This event supports Machik, a non-profit that incubates social innovation in Tibet. Since creating the award-winning Chungba Schools in the heart of Kham, Machik has worked in the region for fourteen years to address the challenges Tibetan communities face by innovating in education, empowerment and community-building.

Rehearsing the state: Governance without sovereignty among Tibetans in exile

Guest post by Cait O’Donnell

All the world’s a stage. Political geography often adopts theatrical terms such as “actors” and “performance” into its jargon. Using theatrical terms to spotlight the Tibetan government in exile, at a presentation sponsored by the CIGA Seminar Series at the George Washington University, Fiona McConnell delivered a presentation entitled, “Rehearsing the State: The Governance Practices of the Tibetan Government in Exile.” McConnell is a Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College, the University of Cambridge.

Tibetan flag

Using the performance analogy, McConnell conceptualizes the long waiting period of the Tibetan government in exile as rehearsal, the Dalai Lama as playwright, and receptive countries as audience. She explores questions of the nature of state and statecraft and what the state-like Tibetan government in exile reflects about conventional statehood.

Addressing the nature of state and statecraft, she pointed to how the Tibetan government in exile, the Central Tibetan Administration, exercises a degree of sovereignty without having sovereignty. The government in exile is unrecognized and lacks authority. Yet, the Central Tibetan Administration has government headquarters, a network of schools and hospitals, eleven “pseudo-embassies” which organize the Dalai Lama’s official visits, and passport-like official documents.

McConnell discussed the roles and functions of states in the imagination and in reality and the fundamentality of the idea and ideal to understanding polity. She asserted that rather than trying to pin down what a political entity is, it is more productive to ask what it does.

Fiona McConnell speaks at GW. March 2012.

She then turned to the geography of temporality and explained how, in the drama of the Tibetan government in exile, its waiting period before returning to Tibet can be seen as a rehearsal. If statecraft is a set of practices to be performed and perfected, then this rehearsal time presents an anticipatory opportunity to practice and perfect state practices. While in India, the state controls immigration cards and taxes, the Central Tibetan Administration runs foreign visas and day-to-day operations. Tibetan settlements in India are economically sufficient communities which foster nationalism in exile and a pan-Tibetan identity which did not exist in pre-1959 homeland Tibet. Thus, the Central Tibetan Administration has developed state-like practices to ensure uniformity of practices across scattered, diasporic communities.

According to McConnell, exiled communities are defined by a timeline to return. They are shaped by the necessity to deal with both the immediate needs of exile as well as the contested future of its path to statehood. The Tibetan government in exile has been in rehearsal in Dharamshala, India, since 1959. Rehearsal depends on participation, presenting the challenge of how to keep people engaged. It also depends on belief in the script, in the playwright, and in the eventuality of a final performance. Continue reading “Rehearsing the state: Governance without sovereignty among Tibetans in exile”