The History of Gyalthang Under Chinese Rule: Memory, Identity, and Contested Control in a Tibetan Region of Northwest Yunnan Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Mortensen, Dasa
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • This dissertation analyzes how the Chinese Communist Party attempted to politically, economically, and culturally integrate Gyalthang (Zhongdian/Shangri-la), a predominately ethnically Tibetan county in Yunnan Province, into the People’s Republic of China. Drawing from county and prefectural gazetteers, unpublished Party histories of the area, and interviews conducted with Gyalthang residents, this study argues that Tibetans participated in Communist Party campaigns in Gyalthang in the 1950s and 1960s for a variety of ideological, social, and personal reasons. The ways that Tibetans responded to revolutionary activists’ calls for political action shed light on the difficult decisions they made under particularly complex and coercive conditions. Political calculations, revolutionary ideology, youthful enthusiasm, fear, and mob mentality all played roles in motivating Tibetan participants in Mao-era campaigns. The diversity of these Tibetan experiences and the extent of local involvement in state-sponsored attacks on religious leaders and institutions in Gyalthang during the Cultural Revolution have been largely left out of the historiographical record. This dissertation claims that, over the past two decades, the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to control historical memory, the government’s promotion of ethnic tourism in Gyalthang, and elderly Tibetans’ reluctance to discuss their involvement in past atrocities have contributed to the effacement of these diverse Cultural Revolution narratives.
Date of publication
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  • In Copyright
  • Reid, Donald
  • Fletcher, W. Miles
  • Tsin, Michael
  • King, Michelle
  • Litzinger, Ralph
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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