Narrative dispossession: Tibet and the gendered logics of historical possibility

Carole McGranahan (Universidade do Colorado - Boulder)

19 de abril de 2012, 15h00

Sala 2, CES-Coimbra


To possess something is an unpredictable combination of the following: to have, to own, to know, or to control. Land, stories, resources, equanimity, and loyalty are all examples of materially incommensurate things a person might possess. However, possessing one’ s own life story is not a given.

Thinking of one’ s life as a story, as something that can be narrated, involves social processes and conventions operative well beyond individual processes of reflection or experience. Narrating one’ s life, then, is to situate oneself and to be situated in dialogue with society. In this paper, I consider the gendered nature of historical narration in the Tibetan exile community. How do cultural ideas about gender, purity, and war affect what histories can be told and by whom? What does it mean to be socially recognized as a historical subject? In assessing the contours of dispossession—or how women are distanced from telling their own stories—I draw on a range of ethnographic and historic material: women’s historical experiences on the Tibetan battlefield, Buddhist debates over female physical powers, the social adjudication of truth in exile, and the belief that a bullet dipped in menstrual blood was a weapon against which no one could be defended.

Nota biográfica

Carole McGranahan (Ph.D., University of Michigan, 2001) is a cultural anthropologist and historian specializing in contemporary Tibet. Her research focuses on issues of colonialism and empire, history and memory, power and politics, refugees and citizenship, nationalism, senses of belonging, gender, war, and anthropology as theoretical storytelling. Since 1994, she has conducted research in Tibetan refugee communities in India and Nepal on the history and politics of the guerilla army Chushi Gangdrug, culminating in her book Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Histories of a Forgotten War (Duke University Press, 2010). Thinking of 20th-21st century Tibetan histories and experiences as imperial in a global sense is a key part of her work in relation to the CIA, British India, and the People's Republic of China. Her work on Tibet as “out-of-bounds” empire can be found in Imperial Formations, an SAR volume she co-edited with Ann Stoler and Peter Perdue. Currently, she is working on two new projects: a Wenner-Gren funded project with John Collins on “Ethnographies of U.S. Empire,” and a new solo research project with Tibetans in India, Nepal, New York City, and Toronto titled “Refugee Citizenship: Tibetan Practices of Political Subjectivity in Diaspora.”

Carole McGranahan regularly teaches classes on Tibet and the Himalayas, feminist anthropology, history and memory, and contemporary social theory.


NOTA: Atividade no âmbito do Núcleo de Estudos sobre Humanidades, Migrações e Estudos para a Paz (NHUMEP)