Skip to main content

Narrative Dispossession: Tibet and the Gendered Logics of Historical Possibility

  • Carole McGranahan (a1)

To possess something is an unpredictable combination of the following: to have, to own, to know, or to control. Land, stories, resources, equanimity, and loyalty are all examples of materially incommensurate things a person might possess. Even without material wealth, for example, one might be said to be in possession of a wicked sense of humor or a good memory or despite all else, one's own life story. Possessing one's own life story, however, is not a given. Thinking of one's life as a story, as something that can be narrated, involves social processes and conventions operative well beyond individual processes of reflection or experience. Narrating one's life, then, is to situate oneself and to be situated in dialogue with society.1 As such, whether one's narrative is consensual with or contradictory to social norms, such narration signals possession of shared structures of possibility, including normative understandings of history, memory, knowledge, and truth. To narrate one's life is not just an issue of how, but also a matter of if.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Akin David. 2003. Concealment, Confession, and Innovation in Kwaio Women's Taboos. American Ethnologist 30, 3: 381400.
Akin David. 2004. Ancestral Vigilance and the Corrective Conscience: Kastom as Culture in a Melanesian Society. Anthropological Theory 4, 3: 299324.
Aretxaga Begoña. 1997. Shattering Silence: Women, Nationalism, and Political Subjectivity in Northern Ireland. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Bruner Edward M. 1986. Introduction: Experience and Its Expressions. In Turner Victor W. and Bruner Edward M., eds., The Anthropology of Experience. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 330.
Buckley Thomas and Gottlieb Alma, eds. 1988. Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Bucur Maria. 2008. An Archipelago of Stories: Gender History in Eastern Europe. American Historical Review 113, 5: 1375–89.
Butler Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge.
Butler Judith. 2005. Giving an Account of Oneself. New York: Fordham University Press.
Canning Kathleen. 2006. Gender History in Practice: Historical Perspectives on Bodies, Class, and Citizenship. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Das Veena. 1990. Mirrors of Violence: Communities, Riots, and Survivors in South Asia. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
D'Cruze Shani and Rao Anupama. 2004. Violence and the Vulnerabilities of Gender. Gender and History 16, 3: 495512.
de Nebesky-Wojkowitz René. 1993 [1956]. Oracles and Demons of Tibet: The Cult and Iconography of Tibetan Protector Deities. The Hauge: Mouton.
Devine Carol. 1993. Determination: Tibetan Women and the Struggle for an Independent Tibet. Toronto: Vauve Press.
Diemberger Hildegard. 2007. When a Woman Becomes a Religious Dynasty: The Samding Dorje Phagmo of Tibet. New York: Columbia University Press.
Doniger Wendy. 1980. Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Doniger Wendy. 1985. Tales of Sex and Violence: Folklore, Sacrifice, and Danger in the Jaiminiya Brahmana. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Douglas Mary. 1966. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Elwood Holly. 1989. Dorje Yudon: The Leader of the Rebels. Unpub. MS, Tibetan Studies Program. Brattleboro, Vt.: School for International Training.
Enloe Cynthia. 1983. Does Khaki Become You?: The Militarization of Women's Lives. Boston: South End Press.
Enloe Cynthia. 1990. Bananas, Beaches, and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Enloe Cynthia. 1993. The Morning After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Enloe Cynthia. 2000. Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Foucault Michel. 1972. Two Lectures. In Power/Knowledge. Gordon Colin, ed., Gordon Colin et al. , trans. New York: Pantheon Books, 78108.
Foucault Michel. 1973. The Order of Things: An Archeaology of the Human Sciences. New York: Vintage Books.
Foucault Michel. 1991. Politics and the Study of Discourse. In Burchell Graham, Gordon Colin, and Miller Peter, eds., The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 5372.
Geertz Clifford. 1986. Epilogue: Making Experience, Authoring Selves. In Turner Victor W. and Bruner Edward M., eds., The Anthropology of Experience. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 373–80.
Goldstein Melvyn C. 1989. A History of Modern Tibet, 1911–1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Goldstein Melvyn C., Jiao Ben, and Lhundrup Tanzen. 2009. On the Cultural Revolution in Tibet: The Nyemo Incident of 1969. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Goodman Philomena. 2002. Women, Sexuality, and War. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Gutschow Kim. 2004. Being a Buddhist Nun: The Struggle for Enlightenment in the Himalayas. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Gyatso Janet. 1989. Down with the Demoness: Reflections on a Feminine Ground in Tibet. In Willis Janice D., ed., Feminine Ground: Essays on Women and Tibet. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 3351.
Gyatso Janet. 1998. Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Gyatso Janet. 2003. One Plus One Makes Three: Buddhist Gender Conception and the Law of the Non-Excluded Middle. History of Religions 43, 2: 89115.
Gyatso Janet and Havnevik Hanna. 2005. Introduction. In Gyatso Janet and Havnevik Hanna, eds., Women in Tibet. New York: Columbia University Press, 125.
Havnevik Hanna. 1989. Tibetan Buddhist Nuns: History, Cultural Norms and Social Reality. Oslo: Norwegian University Press.
Huber Toni. 1994. Why Can't Women Climb Pure Crystal Mountain? Remarks on Gender, Ritual and Space in Tibet. In Kvaerne Per, ed., Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 6th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Fagernes 1992. Oslo: Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture, 350–71.
Huber Toni. 1999a. The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain: Popular Pilgrimage and Visionary Landscape in Southeast Tibet. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Huber Toni. 1999b. Putting the Gnas Back into Gnas-kor: Rethinking Tibetan Pilgrimage Practice. In Huber Toni, ed., Sacred Spaces and Powerful Places in Tibetan Culture. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 771804.
Huber Toni and Pirie Fernanda, eds. 2008. Conflict and Social Order in Tibet and Central Asia. Leiden: Brill.
Kaplan Caren, Alarcon Norma, and Moallem Minoo, eds. 1999. Between Woman and Nation: Nationalisms, Transnational Feminisms, and the State. Durham: Duke University Press.
Thondup Kargyal. 1992. Mdo khams cha phreng gi lo rgyus gser gyi snye ma [The golden grain of Dokham Chatreng's history]. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives.
Klein Ann. 1995. Meeting the Great Bliss Queen: Buddhism, Feminists, and the Art of the Self. Boston: Beacon Press.
Knaus John Kenneth. 1999. Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival. New York: Public Affairs.
Mackenzie Vicki. 1999. Cave in the Snow: Tenzin Palmo's Quest for Enlightenment. New York: Bloomsbury.
MacMillan Laurie Hovell. 2001. English in Tibet, Tibet in English: Self-Presentation in Tibet and the Diaspora. New York: Palgrave.
Makley Charlene. 1994. Gendered Practices and the Inner Sanctum: The Reconstruction of Tibetan Sacred Space in ‘China's Tibet.’ Tibet Journal 19, 2: 6194.
Makley Charlene. 2003. Gendered Boundaries in Motion: Space and Identity on the Sino-Tibetan Frontier. American Ethnologist 30, 4: 597619.
Makley Charlene. 2005a. “Speaking Bitterness”: Autobiography, History, and Mnemonic Politics on the Sino-Tibetan Frontier. Comparative Studies in Society and History 47: 4078.
Makley Charlene. 2005b. The Body of a Nun: Nunhood and Gender in Contemporary Amdo. In Janet Gyatso and Hanna Havnevik, eds., Women in Tibet. New York: Columbia University Press, 259–84.
Mani Lata. 1987. Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India. Cultural Critique 7: 119–56.
McGranahan Carole. n.d. (forthcoming 2010). Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War. Durham: Duke University Press.
McGranahan Carole. 1996. Miss Tibet, or Tibet Misrepresented?: The Trope of Woman-as-Nation in the Struggle for Tibet. In, Cohen Colleen Ballerino, Wilk Richard, and Stoeltje Beverly, eds., Beauty Queens on the Global State: Gender, Contests, and Power. New York: Routledge, 161–84.
McGranahan Carole. 2005. Truth, Fear, and Lies: Exile Politics and Arrested Histories of the Tibetan Resistance. Cultural Anthropology 20, 4: 570600.
McGranahan Carole. 2006. Tibet's Cold War: The CIA and the Chushi Gangdrug Resistance, 1956–1974. Journal of Cold War Studies 8, 3: 102–30.
McGranahan Carole. 2007. Empire Out-of-Bounds: Tibet in the Era of Decolonization. In Stoler Ann Laura, McGranahan Carole, and Perdue Peter, eds., Imperial Formations and Their Discontents. Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research Press.
Morgan Sue, ed. 2006. The Feminist History Reader. London and New York: Routledge.
Norbu Jamyang. 1986 [1979]. Warriors of Tibet: The Story of Aten and the Khampas’ Fight for the Freedom of Their Country. London: Wisdom Publications.
Ortner Sherry. 1974. Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture? In Rosaldo Michelle Zimbalist and Lamphere Louise, eds., Women, Culture, and Society. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 6788.
Ortner Sherry. 1996. Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture. Boston: Beacon Press.
Ortner Sherry. 2006. Anthropology and Social Theory: Culture, Power, and the Acting Subject. Durham: Duke University Press.
Pachen Ani and Donnelly Adelaide. 2000. Sorrow Mountain: The Journey of a Tibetan Warrior Nun. New York: Kodansha International.
Palmo Ani Tenzin. 2002. Reflections on a Mountain Lake: Teachings on Practical Buddhism. Ithaca: Snow Lion.
Patt David. 1993. A Strange Liberation: Tibetan Lives in Chinese Hands. Ithaca: Snow Lion.
Price Sally. 1993. Co-wives and Calabashes. 2d ed.Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Riley Denise. 1988. “Am I that Name?”: Feminism and the Category of “Women” in History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Riley Denise. 2000. Words of Selves: Identification, Solidarity, Irony. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Scott Joan. 1986. Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis. American Historical Review 91, 5: 1053–75.
Scott Joan. 1988. Gender and the Politics of History. New York: Columbia University Press.
Shakya Tsering. 1999. The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet since 1947. London: Pimlico.
Spivak Gayatri. 1988. Can the Subaltern Speak? In Nelson Cary and Grossberg Lawrence, eds., Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 271313.
Steedly Mary. 2000. Modernity and the Memory Artist: The Work of Imagination in Highland Sumatra, 1947–1995. Comparative Studies in Society and History 42, 4: 811–46.
Steedman Carolyn. 1987. Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
Stoler Ann Laura. 1995. Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault's History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things. Durham: Duke University Press.
Stoler Ann Laura. 2002. Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Stoler Ann Laura and Strassler Karen. 2000. Castings for the Colonial: Memory Work in “New Order” Java. Comparative Studies in Society and History 42, 1: 448.
Tapontsang Adhe with Blakeslee Joy. 1997. Ama Adhe, The Voice that Remembers: The Heroic Story of a Woman's Fight to Free Tibet. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
Trouillot Michel-Rolph. 1995. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Boston: Beacon Press.
Vance Carole, ed. 1989. Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality. London: Pandora Press.
van der Kuijp Leonard. 1996. Tibetan Historiography. In Cabezon J. C. and Jackson R., eds., Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre. Ithaca: Snow Lion, 3956.
Williams Brackette, ed. 1996. Women Out of Place: The Gender of Agency and the Race of Nationality. New York: Routledge.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 3
Total number of PDF views: 35 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 253 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 16th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.