Center for Community Engagement

Beyond Shangri-La, Tibetan oral history website, launches

Professor Paola Zamperini, the Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the Center for Community Engagement are proud to announce the public launch of the website, Beyond Shangri-La: Narratives of East, West.

Beyond Shangri-La is a new collection of oral history recordings of Tibetans and Tibetan-Americans in western Massachusetts. The product of the eponymous 2012 spring semester community-based learning course, taught by professor Zamperini, this website aims to be an ongoing project that will keep expanding with each iteration of the course. The oral histories and photographs currently featured in the site were produced by Five College students enrolled in the course after a close academic diachronic study of representations of Tibetan identity from both the east and the west.

From this perspective, Beyond Shangri-La is an integration of academic knowledge of Tibetan culture, religion, and philosophy with that of the Tibetans living, temporarily and permanently, in the Pioneer Valley. The oral histories featured are a cross-section of lived experiences as Tibetans across generations and continents. The Tibetans interviewed in Beyond Shangri-La have lived in Tibet, India, Nepal, Europe, and the United States. Some have never visited Tibet, while others cannot go back. Each story is thus a rich exploration of memory, place, and community. The project, in this sense, invites us to a space that is both documentary and reflexive, leading both interviewees and their audiences to reflect on the meaning of Tibetan identity through first person narratives. The website is a space of remembrance and shared recollections, learning, and conversations that are now available to the public.

Visit the website to listen to the interviews, read transcripts, meet the interviewers and interviewees, and learn more about Tibetans in the Pioneer Valley and in the diaspora. For questions about Beyond Shangri-La, contact professor Zamperini at pzamperini@amherst.edu.