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In July, our institute successfully organized panels at international conferences in China and Mongolia (the 13th IATS, Ulaanbataar)
发布日期:2014/1/8  点击次数:607

In July, our institute successfully organized panels at international conferences in China and Mongolia (the 13th IATS, Ulaanbataar) 

From July 21st to July 27th, the International Association of Tibetan Studies (IATS) held its 13th seminar in Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbataar. Since the late 1970s, the IATS seminars have developed into the largest intervallic interdisciplinary conference on Tibetan issues. This year, our institute’s Prof. Andreas Gruschke organized a panel on Livelihoods on the Tibetan Plateau: Aspects of Vulnerability and Sustainability (Panel 14), thus complementing a related panel on “Aspects of Modernization and Development in Western China“, a panel he organized at the 8th Annual Conference of the Consortium for Western China Development Studies held earlier in July at Chengdu (July 5/6th). They both intended to focus the current discussions about development in western China, and notably on the Tibetan plateau, on how tremendous changes and transformations the societies there have undergone during the past two decades have become both agents and ‘victims’ of processes that shape the dimension of their vulnerability or resilience. In the sessions of the panels, scholars depicted and analyzed the new risks and opportunities contributing to aggravate or mitigate the consequences of such processes, and how they, together with other interventions, decide about households’ and social groups’ adaptive capacity and vulnerability.
Addressing the issue of “sustainable development” elucidates that aiming at “development” means more than undertaking “poverty reduction measures”. It necessarily means that the effects of such development measures need to be understood with regard to issues of vulnerability and resilience and thus sustainability combined with a viable, practicable, positive and fit outlook on future developments. Both panels at the conferences in Chengdu and the IATS in Ulaanbataar suggested scrutinizing on identifying factors responsible for the vulnerability of households, and thus attempting to develop criteria for a necessary sustainable development of household and regional economies. A number of contributions in Chengdu discussed conceptual perspectives (Ingo Breuer on “Modernization and Development: Conceptual Perspectives on Current Livelihood Dynamics“) and contested understandings of development (Ga’errang/Kabzung: “Contested Understanding of Development in Tibet, China: Tibetan Buddhist Elites and Tibetan Radical Secularists“) as well as the importance of political reliability for the minorities’ cultural identity (Andreas Gruschke, “Cultural Security and Development in China’s West”), others produced evidences for both vulnerability and sustainability from some of their own case studies.
That solving poverty issues by state-induced migration may lead to new vulnerability was shown by our institute’s Chen Yong (“Rural Vulnerability and Migration in Mountain Areas of Western China”), while Jarmila Ptackova of in Berlin questioned whether the urbanization in Qinghai’s grasslands may really offer new livelihoods and better living conditions for local pastoralists (“Urbanisation of the Qinghai Grassland: New Living and Livelihood Opportunities for Local Pastoralists?”). Market was the issue of two papers. Gyamtso (Wang Shiyong) of Qinghai Normal University presented “Limitations on Tibetan Market Participation from the Perspective of People–oriented Development Theory” and demonstrated the weak market-competitiveness of Tibetans; Leipzig University’s Janka Linke assessed impacts of the caterpillar fungus markets on livelihoods in the region (“The Caterpillar Fungus Commodity Chain: Assessing Impacts on Livelihoods”). Thierry Dodin presented an example of how mining in Tibet could develop in sustainable ways and also to the advantage of the local population (“Mining in Tibet: Towards Sustainability and Social Responsibility?”).

Ethan Golding’s successful demonstration of the paramount importance of good tools for measuring impacts of poverty evaluation put in a nutshell what had been stressed in various cases (“The importance of measuring impacts of poverty alleviation: PACT – the poverty alleviation criteria tool”): that good monitoring and meaningful evaluation are the alpha and the omega for the success of any kind of development effort.
The panel on “Livelihoods on the Tibetan Plateau: Aspects of Vulnerability and Sustain-ability” at the 13th IATS in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbataar was jointly chaired by Kabzung (Ga’errang), a notable Tibetan researcher at Sichuan University’s Center for Tibetan Studies, and the Austrian independent scholar Hanna Schneider. They successfully moderated an interesting session that started according to schedule with two of Prof. Gruschke’s invitees, later followed by panelists who could be included at short notice and substituted some scholars who couldn’t make it to the conference. While the organizer’s intention was to promote the presentation of gender aspects in the discussion on the vulnerability and sustainability of Tibetan livelihoods, some original invitees from the TAR were unfortunately not able to attend. Still, the panel unfolded a variety of interesting topics and unique aspects of the scheduled topics, and the empty time slots were filled with rewarding discussions.
In her paper “Making a Living on High Ground – The sMan-lha-ba-Nomads of the Shelkar-Dingri Area of South-Western Tibet“, Hanna Schneider unfolded a picture of the living conditions of a very special nomad community between the 18th through 20th centuries CE – the sMan-lha-ba in south-western Tibet. For this purpose, she was mainly drawing on historical material, i.e. edicts of which the oldest dates back to the year of 1715, administrative records, land title documents, and all sorts of documents covering the cycles of nomadic life, from seasonal migration to pasture allocation, land lease contracts, the annual buying and selling of herd capacities for the tenure of livestock within fixed pastureland, herd registers, registers listing the triannual skye-med 'chi-med-census, tax registers, undertakings for the transportation of salt and firewood, mainly as tax compensation, the collection of medical herbs and so on and so forth. She thus demonstrated how archive material can be used to not only open a historical eye on a nomadic group’s development, but also to assess, from this archival material, the pastoralists’ survival skills. By disclosing how they were able to secure their vulnerable and challenged livelihoods in a difficult environment on the Tibetan northern slopes of the central Himalayas, she offered an important comparative perspective for similar contemporary issues in pastoralist areas.
The emphasis of Katia Buffetrille’s presentation “Amdo Nomads between the ‘hammer’ of sedentarisation and the ‘anvil’ of vegetarianism“ lay on the hasty implementation of programs of sedentarisation for pastoralist communities who are thus confronted with a new style of life to which they are not at all prepared. The most pervasive evidence of those programs are new villages with rows of similar houses. At the same time, the lecturer also hinted at the frenzy of (re)construction of religious buildings which are an expression of how deeply religious leaders are involved in the revival of Tibetan Buddhism and further developing monasticism. With stronger emphasis on Buddhist traditions, they offer, but also confront the nomads with some needs for adaptation that again differ from those evolving from state programs. Katia Buffetrille’s paper argues that nomads - at least in the Amdo area - are thus trapped between two strategies that affect greatly their daily life: on the one hand, the Chinese state’s path of assimilation, which is allegedly depriving them of their specific culture, language and way of life. On the other hand, the clergy’s strategy which requests nomads to follow what is thought to be – or rather constructed as - the Tibetan way of life as understood by the Buddhist clergy. These two agendas are both imposing pressure on the local population and definitely tend to deny the identity of the local Tibetans: one has integration as its aim, the second the transformation. In both cases, Tibetans experience pressure since they are being told that the way they live be wrong.
In her report “In Between ’Benevolence’ and ’Civicness’: Social Charity and Changing Political Culture in Ethnic and Minority Communities“, Wu Fengshi addressed aspects of the maturing civil society in Tibetan regions. Arguing that Buddhism had always taught people to show sympathy towards others, especially the ones in need, she relates to social services or charities in Tibetan societies. While traditionally, monasteries and their lamas have been the key agents and centers of charity work, the past decades yielded, however, a new phenomenon – local NGOs. Lay people get together on a voluntary and regular basis, they gather resources, share visions on public affairs, establish an organization and work side-by-side to provide support to the ones in need. This practice of delivering services to the community at large is recent in Tibetan regions inside the PRC and may, in general, be regarded as a result of the combination of political modernization and socio-economic developments in the past 30 years. In particular, the rise of transnational civil society, the trend of philanthropy going global and concerns of the development in Tibet from overseas have had direct and evident impact on this phenomenon.
The emergence of lay social activism and NGOs in Tibetan regions in China has taken a different route from other parts of the country. How and by what this was initiated, in which way it developed and how it could be financed are major issues of Wu Fengshi’s paper. The evolution of local NGOs was outlined and illustrated by case studies of local groups focusing on medical training and community development in Qinghai’s Yushu area, namely Jinba and SSG. The critical role of overseas NGOs and foundations in supporting and fostering grassroots initiatives in layman charity work in Tibetan regions was also elucidated. The latter’s long-term effort certainly has been critical for the appearance of the decent-sized community of lay charities in Qinghai and Gansu Tibetan regions. Furthermore the presentation also alluded to the return of monastery-centered charity work and social mobilization, as well as to the heated debates about nature conservation that are led between both religious and lay environmentalists or environment related NGOs. To assess the significance of such controversies and their potential implications for the future of sustainable development in the region is a major concern of this paper.
That issues of social and political transformations and the so-called modernization are also issues in areas of Tibetan-Buddhist culture beyond Tibet was shown by Tashi Tsering’s presentation on “Inequality in traditional farming and related scarce resource management customs“. His report is based on a case study of fodder, fuel-wood and dung management in Chichem village in the Spiti valley of India. By highlighting certain social aspects of livelihood vulnerability and sustainability on the Tibetan Plateau, he unfolds his arguments that Tibetan Buddhist villages are hierarchical and patriarchal communities, where the management of resources is not equitable, notably if their impacts are regarded from the perspective and experiences of less powerful sections of the society. Since most aspects of Tibetan society, be it traditional education, music, mountain cult, or farming, impact different social groups differently, he contends that the social organization of resource management customs in rural communities, such as those for water, are related to the social organization of managing related resources and that these relationships are better understood within the context of and as aspects of broader livelihood (farming) customs, which are embedded in local social relations of power. Thus, his case study showed how traditional resource management customs that are benign and equitable on the surface can be unfair and “very dangerous techniques” of controlling labor and access to resources. A key to understanding micro-politics of management of local resources is therefore the appraisal of which groups of users are benefited by the traditional and institutional arrangements that control the timing of access to these resources. This can only be grasped within their broader historical contexts and the local characteristics of culture, politics and economy. Since Tashi Tsering’s study led him to the conclusion that traditional Tibetan resource management customs are, contrary to the general assumption, not equitable, this needs true consideration when doing research on their changing livelihood situation and the measure of vulnerability.
The presentation of Chos-'phel on “Mdo-dbus mtho-sgang gi rtsa-sa'i srung-skyobs khrod 'brog-pa'i go-gnas la dpyad-pa – Examining the Status of Nomads and the Protection of Pastures on the Tibetan Plateau“ can be considered as an adequate and enriching conclusion of our panel. His expertise as an erudite scholar of pastoralist studies has deep roots in his former nomadic life, having grown up in a pastoral society of western China’s Amdo area. His presentation mainly focused on how important the preservation of nomadic experiences (i.e., indigenous knowledge) and lifestyles is for the livelihood security of rural people in Tibetan areas. This challenging task comprises two efforts: on the one hand, traditional lifestyles and mobile forms of pastoralism need to be maintained as much as possible in order to lessen both the ecological and social vulnerability and strengthen the livelihood security of the local households. On the other hand, to this very aim also adds the necessity for the nomads to open themselves for modern developments and opportunities of herd-keeping. These different tasks require an assignment of tasks to both sides – to nomadic societies and the state, and how this is done can ultimately only be solved through exchange and communication at eye level. Then, pastoralists may preserve their traditions while at the same time opening themselves to modern economic developments. And policy-makers need not only design interventions that evoke transformations, but also a way that allows the nomads to remain nomadic. Thus, they will also realize that keeping traditional lifestyles is not just a matter per se. Since pastoral management, for instance, builds on indigenous knowledge the traditions helped preserve. Reasonable ways of grazing developed from century-old experience. From this, all stakeholders from pastoral households, local groups, towns and, due to the simultaneous preservation of the environment, the entire state, they all might benefit.
The presentation of Prof. Chos-'phel clearly revealed his wealth of experience that results from his everyday life experiences in a nomadic society and their academic reflection. Both the Chinese-Tibetan and western audience enjoyed very much that with Chos-’phel a very special discussant was present – questions he was asked addressed both a nomad and a scholar at the same time. Thus, it was not surprising that the panel ended with a lively discussion, lasting for one more hour. Throughout the entire day, Nancy Levine, an “old-hand“ of Tibetan pastoralist studies, honored the panelists by her presence the entire day and thus also contributed to the success of this IATS panel on ”Livelihoods on the Tibetan Plateau: Aspects of Vulnerability and Sustainability”.
The Institute of Social Development & Western China Development Studies of Sichuan University is planning to edit a volume on the topic, comprising papers that are thematically linked.


Links:

Livelihoods on the Tibetan Plateau: Aspects of Vulnerability and Sustainability: www.iats.info/panel-14-livelihoods-on-the-tibetan-plateau
SCU-organized Panels in 2013: Abstracts of Papers Presented, www.andreasgruschke.de/SCU/2013panels.html

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