Half-Breeds, Mongrels, and Mules: Half-Tibetans at the Intersection of Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism, 1900–60

Friday, January 5, 2018: 11:10 AM
Columbia 7 (Washington Hilton)
David Atwill, Penn State University
On September 9, 1951 the several thousand-strong vanguard of the People’s Liberation Army marched into Lhasa and in the words of the People’s Daily “returned Tibet to the Motherland.” The Chinese government then as now argued that Tibet has been an integral part of China since the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) and thus all Tibetans in that moment became “Chinese.” Despite China’s overt claims of citizenship for overseas Chinese (particularly in Indonesia), deploying a "once-a-Chinese-always-a-Chinese” logic, the government inverted that logic inside China (and Tibet) by reverting to the claim that just as Tibet had always been an integral part of China, all Tibetans had equally always been Chinese. The non-Tibetan (and non-Chinese) ties of Tibet's Khatsara (half-Tibetans), Khache (Muslim), and Koko (half-Chinese) proved an inconvenient test of the newly formed Chinese nation-state's immutable definition of itself. Given Tibet’s own struggle to position itself internationally during the decades prior to the arrival of the Chinese in 1951 the half-Chinese, half-Nepalese, and Khache repeatedly appear as crucial interlocutors between Tibet and the numerous states clustered along its borders even as their own status remained unambiguous within Tibet. The half-Tibetans are particularly revealing not just to accentuate the manner by which mixed-Tibetans reflect the varied means by which Tibet’s neighbors asserted historical claims within Tibet but also for displaying the uncomfortable gaps between the categories of race, ethnicity and nationalism.
<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation