Ishani Dasgupta

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Pennsylvania, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9526

Approve Date

October 11, 2017

Project Title

Dasgupta, Ishani, U. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA - To aid research on 'Eternal Flame: Self-Immolation and the Culture of Resistance in the Tibetan Exile Community,' supervised by Dr. Lisa Mitchell

Why is the body an important site in formulating cultures of resistance? The body of the martyr has been significant to nationalist and resistance struggles across the world, in places like Egypt (Ghannam 2015), Tunisia (Bargu 2016), Yugoslvaia (Verdery 1999), Iran (Varzi 2006) and Azad Kashmir (Robinson 2013). The body has also become significant to the Tibetan resistance movement with 148 self-immolations occurring across the transnational Tibetan community since 2009. Through my ethnographic research in the Tibetan exile headquarters of Dharamsala, India, I aim to study the culture of resistance that forms around mediatized images of a martyr’s body by focusing on the political actors and artists who create this culture, as well as those unaffiliated Tibetans who participate in it. These political actors negotiate competing discourses drawn from Tibetan Buddhism, nationalism and human rights to transform the bodies of the self-immolators into potent vessels of meaning. The culture of resistance that they create consists of processes of memorialization, mourning practices, and discursive testimonies and visual representations created and circulated by community members that assert a collective Tibetan identity in the face of exile, fragmentation and erasure. This deployment of the body through mediatized methods makes it a presence in the lives of a stateless and transnational population of Tibetans. My attention to the body as a site of resistance will reveal new insights about the limits of state power, and contribute to the literature on resistance as enabling new modes of community formation.