Accepted Paper:

Tibet without borders: clashing utopias, confounded realities and the fate of Tibet  


Amy Mountcastle (State Univ. New York-Plattsburgh)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores three utopian narratives of Tibet as a land without borders, and how they have come to define Tibet’s reality and destiny. How are these visions manifested in policy, and what have been their impacts on the lives of Tibetans? How do utopian and hegemonic narratives intersect?

Paper long abstract:

Where is Tibet? While ideas about the geographical boundaries of Tibet are contested and varied, the Tibet of the imagination far exceeds any geographically defined area. A better question may be, What is Tibet? Tibet, the idea, is a land without borders. This paper explores three modern narratives of Tibet and how they have come to define Tibet's reality and destiny from the mid-20th century to the present. It examines how the Tibet of the Western imagination, the Tibet of Tibetan exiles, and the Tibet of the People's Republic of China, as utopian visions, have intersected, conflicted, and ultimately, have framed Tibetan lives and experiences. Utopian visions produce their own kind of borders. What kinds of utopias are represented in these narratives, how are these visions manifested in policy, and what have been their impacts on the lived experiences of Tibetans? What is the intersection of utopian and hegemonic narratives? Who is served by these utopian visions of Tibet and when do utopian visions become liabilities? The paper examines the concept of utopia in the sense of Mannheim's idea of a set of ideas that "transcend the present and is oriented towards the future," asking the question, "whose future"? It also explores the dangers of utopian imaginaries, building on Michael Ignatieff's connection between utopian visions as "a world without enemies" and genocide, with genocide being "a crime in service of a utopia."

Panel Mig007
Migration and transition: utopian imaginaries on the move