The research programme “Territories, Communities and Exchanges in the Sino-Tibetan Kham Borderlands (China)” has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration, European Research Council (ERC), Support for frontier research (SP2-Ideas), Starting grant n° 283870.

It is hosted by the Centre d'études Himalayennes, at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)

For further information and any questions, please contact the Principal Investigator, Stéphane Gros

CEH - UPR 299
7 rue Guy Môquet
94800 Villejuif CEDEX
Tél : 01 49 58 37 36
Fax : 01 49 58 37 28

Home > Aims and Themes > Theme 4 - Representations and cultural politics

Theme 4 - Representations and cultural politics

Studies on border regions in China generally focus on issues relating to the integration and imposition of administrative control. Consequently, researchers tend to limit themselves to issues of governance. Thus, both in the past and today, scholars have overlooked many issues related to intellectual history and the different sorts of knowledge that have justified or even opened the way to extended political control. Yet in the early twentieth century, a number of Chinese intellectuals argued that the use of new knowledge justified the imposition of the republican colonial administration (1911-1949). In light of these factors, this collective project explores how the growing influence of social science and scientific knowledge has brought about a radical change in the acquisition of information on this border region. It will be possible to make an assessment parallel to the contemporary context. It is in fact worthwhile analyzing the renewed interest in the Kham region, the policy of promoting local Tibetan culture which, with some reservations, seems characteristic of a cultural policy aimed at shaping a precise representation of a relatively uniform Khampa society.

Notions of cultural and linguistic frontiers, issues of identity, agency and representation in literature and culture (texts and contexts), and intra-national and inter-national Tibetan translation practices (cultural transfer issues) are crucial aspects of the work conducted by Lara Maconi whose research is chiefly based on a combination of literary sources analysis and extensive fieldwork investigations in both Tibet and inner China. During the time of her fellowship, she explores how politics and cultural policies, on both the micro and macro levels, have contributed to shaping Kham cultural/literary life and representations.

In order to identify the cultural ressource that are characteristic to this region, an important component of the work focuses on collecting ethnographic and historical data on local traditions and material culture. A first step in this endeavour is to provide an initial inventory of the geographic distribution of both secular and religious forms and techniques used during different eras, and to produce an atlas of craft and artistic production in Kham. A second step is to take into consideration, through historical sources and fieldwork, the circulation of this production, as well as that of the artists and craftsmen themselves. For example, sand casting, harnesses and cutlery items were indeed produced by sedentary workshops, whereas woodcarvings, paintings and clay sculptures were produced by travelling workshops. Some of these goals are at the core of Kunsang Namgyal-Lama’s research (see below) in the framework of this project.

Dergé Printing House

Previous ethnographic research by Stéphane Gros led to investigations on paper-making, carving, and printing in Dergé, all activities linked to the Printing house of Dergé.
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Preliminary survey on Khampa metalwork

During her post-doctoral fellowship, Kunsang Namgyal-Lama aims to identify and describe the diversity and the specificities of Khampa metalwork. Widely renowned throughout the Tibetan world for (...)

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