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Harris, Clare E. (1997) Depicted identities: Image and image-makers of post-1959 Tibet. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis examines the role of images and image-makers in the period after 1959, when political control of Tibet was assumed by the People's Republic of China and thousands of Tibetans followed the Dalai Lama into exile. It is based on the work of image-makers in exile communities in India and in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of the People's Republic. The first section of the thesis establishes the importance of images in the exile community (with emphasis on the Tibetan capital-in-exile, Dharamsala) as religious objects and as definers of identity. Image-makers' responses to the conditions of exile and their engagement with new techniques of production and subject matter are discussed. Their works are analysed in the context of Tibetan debates about what constitutes appropriate imagery for exilic conditions. The thesis demonstrates that style is invented and negotiated in different ways, with significant differences emerging between image-makers in Dharamsala and those outside the capital-in-exile. The second section of the study examines the parallel history of image production in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Here the impact of the colonial gaze is registered in a chapter on Chinese depictions of Tibet. The resulting entanglement of Chinese and Tibetan styles of image- making over the course of nearly five decades is outlined. Finally, the emergence of self-consciously Tibetan "modernist" images and image- makers is considered. A case study of one artist, who has worked in both the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the capital-in exile, draws the two sections into a problematised alignment. The contribution of this thesis rests in the analysis of Tibetan images during a period of dramatic political and social upheaval, a subject which has been largely ignored by art historians and is only beginning to be considered by anthropologists. It aims to enter into a debate about style in Tibetan painting from the perspective of post-1959 Tibetan image-makers.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:09

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