Anglophone Novels from the Tibetan Diaspora: Negotiations of Empire, Nation, and Culture

The preface of the Charter of the Tibetans-in-Exile (1991) states the goals of the government as follows:

Efforts shall be made to transform a future Tibet into a Federal Democratic Self-Governing Republic and a zone of peace throughout her three regions.

Whereas in particular, efforts shall be made in promoting the achievement of Tibet’s common goal as well as to strengthen the solidarity of Tibetans, both within and outside of Tibet, and to firmly establish a democratic system suitable to the temporary ideals of the Tibetan people.1

The Charter navigates the tenuous relationship between sovereignty and imagined statehood in layered chronotopes of a past and future Tibet. The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) outlines the terms of its jurisdiction over a polity defined at once in ethnic, religious, and anachronistically political terms as constituents-in-exile as well as proleptic citizenry of a future Tibetan state. Thus, the government-in-exile, headquartered in northern India, and its global constituents wrestle with the challenges faced by other peoples who live within or in exile from occupied territories controlled by a foreign state: the naming of a political entity that no longer corresponds to geopolitical realities; the imagination of a future state defined in part on a projection of the past; and the desire to unify those living in exile and under occupation, notwithstanding their different strategies of accommodation, resistance, and adaptation to foreign political control. Novels offer a privileged window onto these complex political and cultural imaginaries because of the form’s facility in rendering competing chronotopes and its historical ties to national identity. The rich potential of both of these effects is explored in one of the most accomplished novels of the Tibetan diaspora, Jamyang Norbu’s The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes.

This content is restricted to site members. If you are an existing user, please login. New users may click here to subscribe.

Existing Users Log In