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History of Modern Tibetan Societies

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Sceau du royaume de Gyalrong, 18e siècle

Directors (regular members) : Charles Ramble (EPHE), Alice Travers (CNRS)

Associate Members : Fabienne Jagou (EFEO), Françoise Robin (INALCO)

Collaborators : Christoph Cüppers (LIRI, Nepal), Jeannine Bischoff (Bonn, Germany), Saul Mullard (Oxford, Post-doctoral student, ANR SHTS), Fernanda Pirie (Oxford, GB), Peter Schwieger (Bonn, Germany).

The aim of this programme is to research the social history of different social groups and regions of the Tibetan cultural area. Until February 2015, the program will be part of a bi-lateral Franco-German project (ANR/DFG) entitled The Social History of Tibetan Societies 17th-20th Centuries. The programme also comprises a project on collective memory that will contribute to the above-mentioned socio-historical analysis.

1. Social history of Tibetan societies 17th-20th centuries (ANR-DFG SHTS 2012-2015, director : Charles Ramble)

1.1. Socio-historical research on the Tibet-Nepal border region (Charles Ramble)

Charles Ramble will pursue his current research on the archives of Mustang, a Tibetan enclave in Nepal. Around 3000 documents (from the 17th to 20th centuries will be transliterated, edited, indexed and partially translated, and made available in paper version and on line. The research will cover several themes : local law and governance, civil society, resource management, taxes, social hierarchy etc. The documents will provide the source material for creating an online lexicon of legal and administrative terms.

1.2. Tibet-Qing relations from the late 18th to the late 19th century (Fabienne Jagou)

Fabienne Jagou’s research will focus on Tibet-China relations from the late 18th to the late 19th century based on administrative documents in both Chinese and Tibetan. The documents, related to the Tibet-Nepal wars of 1788 and 1791, were drafted by Manchu representatives (ambans) in Lhasa. These sources provide interesting insights on the administrative, economic and social reforms introduced by the Manchus in Tibet in the wake of the wars and on the translation of Tibetan and Chinese administrative language.

1.3. Composition, continuity and renewal of the elite in the 19th and 20th centuries (Alice Travers)

Alice Travers will study the development of the elite classes in Tibet—traditional, lay and religious as well as the emerging elite, mainly scholars and merchants—and their relations, based on biographical and autobiographical texts from the Material Sources for a History of Tibet (Bod kyi rig gnas lo rgyus dpyad gzhi’i rgyu cha bdams bsgrigs, in 27 volumes), British archives, interviews and texts published in exile.

2. History and Memory : how the past is used and the development of collective memory in the 20th century (Alice Travers and Françoise Robin)

Alice Travers will examine the ways in which the history of Tibet in the first half of the 20th century is written in Chinese-occupied Tibet and Tibet in exile, with a focus on the development of a collective memory and the way in which it is ‘shaped’ by the political authorities. Data provided by the study of Material Sources for a History of Tibet will be compared to other sources (oral, biographical sources published in exile, Tibetan and British archives). Special attention will be paid to the role of events in memory and the notion of generation.

Françoise Robin will compare the two longest Tibetan novels published to date in Tibet (Phal pa’i khyim tshang gi skyid sdug by Bkra shis dpal ldan, 1992 and Lhing ’jags kyi rtswa thang by Stag ’bum rgyal, 1995). Both provide detailed accounts of the ‘new’ Chinese Tibet, through the interwoven destinies of families and communities in rural Tibet. Her focus will be on the ways in which memory of the Maoist period is dealt with in both form and content and through the intimate description of families and people in contrast to the State’s official account. She will reflect on what kind of insight such novels may yield on this period in a context of strict State control on artistic expression and historical discourse.