2016 Senior Fellowship Award Winner
The Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies is pleased to announce the 2016 Senior Fellowship award winner, Dr. David Atwill, for his project titled Islamic Shangri-la: Tibetan Muslim Hybridity, Assimilation and Diaspora.
Dr. Atwill is an Associate Professor of History & Asian Studies in the Department of History at Pennsylvania State University.
Project Title: Islamic Shangri-la: Tibetan Muslim Hybridity, Assimilation and Diaspora
Abstract: In 1959, a dispute arose in central Tibet between Chinese authorities and Tibetan Muslims over their claim of Indian citizenship despite having lived in Tibet for centuries. The ensuing diplomatic row resulted in the exchange of dozens of diplomatic notes, letters and memorandums that ultimately ended with nearly a thousand Tibetan Muslims being admitted to India with Indian citizenship in late 1960. While the 1960 Tibetan Muslim Incident has been almost entirely forgotten, it underscores in a much more nuanced manner the limits that the non-alignment, anti-imperialism, and pro-Asian solidarity movements of the 1950s had shaped both nation’s euphoric post-independence/liberation period.
Precisely how the two governments seized upon the Tibetan Muslims in 1959 as the test case for these larger ethnic and citizenship questions is startling when one realizes that even as the Dalai Lama crossed over into India—thus sparking the Indian’s government interest in the Tibetan Muslims—the Tibetan Muslim’s precise history, position in Tibetan society, and transnational identity remained ambiguous and largely undocumented in Chinese, Tibetan and Western sources. This project seeks to delineate how Tibet’s dramatic ethno-religious landscape facilitated inter-regional interaction and thus explicitly undermines two central pillars of the externalist narratives of Tibet: the essentializing narrative in which all Tibetans are lumped together as some sort of heterogeneous yet monolithic whole, and the exclusionist narrative whereby all non-Buddhist groups are portrayed as permanently peripheral to all that is Himalayan.