Learning to Be Colonial: ‘Effective Occupation’ and Early Twentieth Century Chinese Settlement of Eastern Tibet


Henry Luce Foundation/ ACLS Program in China Studies Postdoctoral Fellowships




This multi-disciplinary research project explores patterns of learning and the global transmission of knowledge in the Kham borderland straddling eastern Tibet and western Sichuan Province in southwest China during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It analyses how four diverse colonial projects influenced a settlement endeavour in Kham, how knowledge of the international law principle of ‘effective occupation’ reached China, and how this settlement endeavour was used to substantiate Chinese sovereignty claims based on effective occupation at the Simla Conference (1913-14). Focusing on the impact of globalising ideas in practice and in context, this research deepens understanding of the transformative influence of these ideas on polities and societies then and their resonance today.