In the 1950s, thousands of ordinary Tibetans rose up to defend their country and religion against Chinese troops. Their citizen army fought through 1974 with covert support from the Tibetan exile government and the governments of India, Nepal, and the United States. Decades later, the story of this resistance is only beginning to be told and has not yet entered the annals of Tibetan national history. In Arrested Histories, the anthropologist and historian Carole McGranahan shows how and why histories of this resistance army are “arrested” and explains the ensuing repercussions for the Tibetan refugee community.
Drawing on rich ethnographic and historical research, McGranahan tells the story of the Tibetan resistance and the social processes through which this history is made and unmade, and lived and forgotten in the present. Fulfillment of veterans’ desire for recognition hinges on the Dalai Lama and “historical arrest,” a practice in which the telling of certain pasts is suspended until an undetermined time in the future. In this analysis, struggles over history emerge as a profound pain of belonging. Tibetan cultural politics, regional identities, and religious commitments cannot be disentangled from imperial histories, contemporary geopolitics, and romanticized representations of Tibet. Moving deftly from armed struggle to nonviolent hunger strikes, and from diplomatic offices to refugee camps, Arrested Histories provides powerful insights into the stakes of political engagement and the cultural contradictions of everyday life.
Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War, Carole McGranahan, Duke University Press, Hardcover, 2010, 307 Pages, $84.95