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The politics of standardising and subordinating subjects: the nomadic settlement project in Tibetan areas of Amdo

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Since 2006, Tibetan nomads have been resettled into centralised urban settlement towns as part of China's effort at 'Building a New Socialist Countryside' in Tibetan areas. The official narrative of this new policy falls very much within the ambit of neoliberal mantras, such as bringing modernisation, economic efficiency, market-oriented personhood, comfortable living and, most importantly, environmental protection and national security to its west. At the heart of such policies is the idea that the west would remain 'backward' and 'unruly' if left alone or uncared for. In this context, this paper aims to elucidate how a sense of backwardness that ostensibly poses a threat to social and political stability is transformed into the spatial and social reorganisation of Tibetan pastoral regions. Drawing on my ethnographic research in the summer of 2012, this paper takes the newly built resettlement village in Jentsa (established in 2009), Amdo, as a case study to explore how a multitude of actors on the ground have come to view, respond, and cope with this new policy by simultaneously relying on and incorporating the new space, and by constituting alternative forms of participation and social space. I argue that, if we are to understand the multiplicity of interactions and actors at play in the process of implementing nomadic settlement project in Tibetan areas in general, and in Jentsa in particular, we need to develop models of understanding these relationships that acknowledge their complexity.
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Keywords: Development; Education; Nomads ('brog pa); Resettlement; Xiangmu

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2015

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  • Nomadic Peoples is an international journal published by the White Horse Press for the Commission on Nomadic Peoples, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Its primary concerns are the current circumstances of all nomadic peoples around the world and their prospects. Its readership includes all those interested in nomadic peoples, scholars, researchers, planners and project administrators.
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