The Politics of Presence: State-Led Development, Personhood and Power among Tibetans in China


ACLS Fellowship Program




“The Politics of Presence” is based on long term fieldwork, 2002-2013, in the famous Tibetan valley of Rebgong, in China’s southeastern Qinghai province, seat of the Geluk sect Buddhist monastery of Rongwo, erstwhile rulers of the region. It is an ethnography of state-local relations among Tibetans marginalized under China's ‘Great Develop the West’ campaign and during the 2008 military crackdown on Tibetan unrest. The study brings anthropological approaches to states and development into dialogue with recent interdisciplinary debates about the very nature of human subjectivity and relations with nonhuman others (including deities). It draws on a linguistic anthropological approach to contested presence, one that takes deities seriously as interlocutors for Tibetans. The book thus challenges readers to grasp the unpredictable, even violent, interpersonal dynamics at the heart of development projects and provides unique insights for understanding the historical dynamics shaping ongoing tensions in the Sino-Tibetan frontier zone.