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Beyond Politics: A Layered Analysis

Gunjan Singh

By Emily T. Yeh
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 523, Rs. 695.00


The People’s Republic of China (PRC) under the leadership of Mao ‘liberated’ Tibet in 1951attempting to bring the region under Communist rule. However, the promises made by the PRC (of respecting the religious beliefs of Tibetans) were disregarded and thus Tibet witnessed the first ‘uprising’ against Communist rule in 1959. A large number of Tibetans with the Dalai Lama fled to India in order to survive the Communist backlash. Over time Tibet has witnessed a number of such ‘uprisings’ which has disturbed the notion of control of the PRC over Tibet. The most recent one was in March 2008 before the Beijing Olympics. The Chinese Government is always looking for newer ways and means to bring Tibet in its fold and get the people of Tibet to accept its rule without defiance. However, the recent incidents of ‘self-immolations’ prove that the Tibetan people are resorting to new methods to convey their anger and discontent with respect to the Chinese government and army presence in Tibet. With this backdrop the book by Emily Yeh is rightly titled as the primary aim of the Chinese government is to ‘tame’ Tibet (both geographically and politically). To discuss the ways and means which are employed by the PRC to bring Tibetans into its fold, the Chinese Government has been using the idea of ‘development’. The author states that the book is about the production and transformation of the Tibetan landscape from the 1950s to the present. The author argues that the Chinese Government is using the ‘Comfortable Housing Program’ in order to transform the Tibetan region and thus territorialize Tibet. The idea of bringing a modern ‘look’ to the Tibetan landscape in addition to transforming the landscape as per the ideas of the Chinese Government is the primary tool employed by the PRC. She asserts that, ‘the spectacle of development created by image engineering marks both a “laudatory monologue” and a claim that the Chinese state is the legitimate and benevolent care giver of this contentious space of the Chinese nation’ (p. 251). By providing ‘development’ the Chinese government is attempting to gain the unquestioned loyalty of the Tibetan people. By providing a modern household the Chinese Government aims to control the notion of Tibetan loyalty towards the Dalai Lama. This is further asserted with the authority to search the houses as well as issuing government orders which forbid Tibetans from using any symbol or idea ...

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