Program

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships , Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Early Career Fellowships

Project

Economies of the High Plateau: Monasteries, Merchants, and Ulak Transportation in Tibet, 1904-1959

Project

Tibet Incorporated: Institutional Power and Economic Practice on the Sino-Tibetan Borderland 1930-1950

Department

History

Named Award

This award is made possible with additional funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities

Economies of the High Plateau: Monasteries, Merchants, and Ulak Transportation in Tibet, 1904-1959

This dissertation explores Tibetan economic institutions and transportation infrastructures during the twentieth century. During this period, Tibetan institutions and actors negotiated their position vis-à-vis Britain and China by asserting economic agency through ulak: a transportation-cum-taxation system that facilitated transport, trade, and communications in Tibet. As opposed to the earlier literature that portrayed ulak as the primary reason for Tibetan economic backwardness, this project demonstrates that ulak was in fact a complex system uniquely suited to a region like Tibet, which was rich in land but poor in labor. Furthermore, due to its highly decentralized and flexible structure, ulak was particularly effective in times of uncertainty and change. Focusing on ulak and the socio-economic world around it, this dissertation examines Tibetan monasteries, merchants, and transnational companies that participated in global economic transformations.

Tibet Incorporated: Institutional Power and Economic Practice on the Sino-Tibetan Borderland 1930-1950

This book explores Tibet’s twentieth-century economic incorporation into China, arguing that the
economic interconnectedness of the twentieth century and the increased links between Tibet and
China was mediated by increasingly powerful Tibetan economic institutions.