Submitted by Paola Zamperini (inactive) on Tuesday, 1/24/2012, at 9:25 AM


This course will look in depth at Asian and Western constructions of Tibetan identity in various sources and media, from Tibetan folk songs and legends to Buddhist philosophical and historical treatises, from Chinese Yuan and Ming dramas to Hollywood cinema, from Tibetan traditional art and music to some of its contemporary Western interpretations. By trying to get to the heart of Tibetan culture in this multimediatic universe, we will also try to map the ways in which, throughout different periods and at the hands of different agents, readers, and performers, “Tibet” has been constructed, invented, and deconstructed, as a site of identity, oppression, and resistance. The second part of the course will also involve sustained engagement with the Tibetan community in the Pioneer Valley, as the students will interview, in collaboration with the Shang Shung International Institute for Tibetan Studies and the Tibetan Association of Western Massachusetts, local Tibetan immigrants and collect their stories about the ways in which they identify with Tibetan culture in the North American diaspora. Course participants will give updates about their fieldwork projects, and the course will culminate in the creation of database of the oral histories and narratives of Tibetans in the Pioneer Valley.


Attendance and participation

I expect you to have completed the reading assignments before coming to class. Attendance and class participation are essential. The course will combine lecture and discussion and part of the final grade will be based on your participation, which involves presence, preparation of readings, and contributions towards classroom discussion. Late arrivals will be noted and will count as absences. Each absence needs to be explained in order to avoid an impact on the grade.


Course Requirements

Attendance & Participation: As a class given over almost entirely to discussion, the value of this course depends greatly on your regular attendance and on your sustained and enthusiastic participation.

Response papers (and the occasional assignment):  There is a response paper for each of the films in the course. On occasion, I will also assign written assignments related to the readings and the in-class discussion.  All response papers and assignments should be one full page, single-spaced, with one-inch margins. All response papers are due in class the day we discuss the film and can be submitted through the digital drop-box.  Since the primary purpose of the response papers is to facilitate discussion, late responses will not be accepted. 

Discussion leading:  During the second half of the semester, students will work in small groups and lead the discussion for one class session.  You are encouraged to give a short contextual presentation and to provide the class with the topics for discussion.  I will provide further guidance later in the semester.

Final Project: Your final project will entail planning an interview with the Tibetans living in the diaspora in Western Massachusetts, by filming them, transcribing their interviews, and then writing a reflection on the experience. You will work in teams of maximum three students, and you will be given technical instruction and support by the Amherst College Center For Community Engagement staff and IT staff. Detailed instruction will be provided to you in class and via email. There will be NO EXTENSIONS, except for exceptional circumstances, and your paper will be marked down 10 % for each day it is late.

Details and prompts about assignments and the final project will be emailed to you in due time. All written work for this course must be typed, double-spaced and printed in a clear fashion (no recycled or colored paper, please!).  Feel free to include art-work.

The final grade will be based on the following criteria: attendance and participation (and this includes response papers and assignments), 45%; final project, 55%.


Campus Resources

Writing Center: Charles Pratt Dorm, Room 101.  Trained consultants will give individual assistance with writing assignments at any stage of the process.  I encourage you to take advantage of their services when preparing drafts of formal essays. Their website is

Frost Library Reference Desk: The librarians at Frost are very friendly and can help you locate useful materials for the final paper in the course, which includes a research component.


Academic Honesty

Assignments and conduct in this course are governed by the Honor System of Amherst College.  Course assignments should substantially reflect your own work and ideas, and when that work is facilitated through a dialogue with others, you should acknowledge it.  If you get information from a book, an article, or a website, be sure to say so.  (The exception for this course is anything the professor says in class, which you can appropriate as needed.  Your papers, however, should not merely regurgitate lectures or class discussions.)  The use of another’s words or ideas without acknowledgment constitutes plagiarism, a serious breach of the Honor System, which will result in a zero for the assignment and referral to higher authorities. Avoiding plagiarism is not so much about the method of documentation as about the fact of acknowledgment.

Please let me know if you have any disabilities that might affect your performance in this course


Office Hours

W 3,30 PM to 5 PM, and by appointment

106 Webster


Tel.: 413-5424483

 You are welcome and (really) encouraged to come and speak with me during office hours. This is important time to discuss more extensively the texts we are studying, the ideas we are exploring, or anything else related to the class.  I strongly urge you to talk with me about difficulties you may experience with course related material and to make suggestions, so that we can all benefit from each other’s insights and comments. 


Required Books:

All texts are available at Amherst Books; they are also on reserve at Frost. Please use only these editions, as all page numbers in your syllabus refers to them.  Also, please note that the book by Julia Hess is an e-book available through the AC library website.

Anne-Marie Blondeau and Katia Buffetrille   Authenticating Tibet: Answers To China's 100 Questions  0520249283   2008  

Thierry Dodin (Editor), Heinz Rather (Editor) Imagining Tibet: Perceptions, Projections, And Fantasies    0861711912   1996   

Melvyn Goldstein, and Tashi Tsering, The Struggle for Modern Tibet: The Autobiography of Tashi Tsering 0765605090 1999

Julia Hess, Immigrant Ambassadors. Citizenship and Belonging in the Tibetan Diaspora. Please note that this book is available as e-book through e-reserve.

John Powers   History As Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles Versus The People’s Republic of China 0195174267   2004   

Tetsu Saiwai   The 14th Dalai Lama. A Manga Biography   0143118153   2010   

 Recommended books

Matthew T. Kapstein, The Tibetans (Peoples of Asia) Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (October 16, 2006) 0631225749


Timothy Holtz   A Doctor In Little Lhasa: One Year In Dharamsala   1598588834   2009   



Required movies for ASLC 325

With the exceptions noted below in your syllabus, all movies will be available for your viewing pleasure as streaming videos that you can access from any computer connected to the Amherst-network via Ethernet cable. Please refer to this link for more information on how to access streaming videos:

Class discussion will often center on the movies, so all viewings are compulsory. Additional movie screenings may be added.

Angry monk DVD / BQ950 .A54
Samsara DVD / PN1997 .S247

Phörpa (The Cup) DVD / PN1997 .P739a  

Tibet in Song Ordered for Reserve on 12/16/2011

Windhorse  DVD / PN1997 .W546

Lha sa'i mi lam= Dreaming Lhasa DVD / PN1997 .L489

Compassion in exile  DVD / BQ7935.B777 C65

Tulku  DVD / BQ4570.T8 T85
Lost horizon DVD / PR6015.I53 L691 

Nong nu: The Serf NO call number yet

Xizang ren wu: Zang yi da shi, Xizang shi zhuang mo te, Zangzu nü da xue sheng, jia zai Xizang DVD DS786 .X497
Shanggelila = Shangri-La DVD DS797.86.X5375 S53
Xizang : Zhongguo Xizang = China's Tibet DS786 .X489

The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet NO call number yet

Capturing reality: the art of documentary NO call number yet

Seeds of Tibet: Voices of children in exile NO call number yet



Other movies on reserve

The viewing of these movies is not compulsory, and they are on reserve for those of you who may want to deepen their knowledge and interests in a specific area.

A guest of life ORDERED 1/21/2012

A quiet revolution DVD / DS786 .Q85

Capturing reality: the art of documentary PN1995.9.D6 C365

Daughters of Wisdom DVD / BQ6345.K25 D28

Destroyer of illusion. The secret world of a Tibetan Lama DVD / BQ5720.M28 D47

Gyalyum Chemo= The Great Mother DVD / DS786 .G935

Himalaya DVD / PN1997 .H5283

Journey into Buddhism DVD / BQ6410 .J68

Kundun DVD / PN1997 .K798

Milarepa: magician, murderer, saint DVD / PN1997 .M52

Qing Zang xian= A railway in the cloud DVD / PN1997 .Q227

Satya, a prayer for the enemy DVD / BQ6150 .S38a

Seven years in Tibet DVD / DS785 .H27319

The saltmen of Tibet DVD / DS786 .S25

The sun behind the clouds: Tibet's struggle for freedom DVD / DS786 .S86

Tibet: Cry of the snow lion DVD / DS786 .T4967

Travellers and magicians DVD / PN1997 .T741

Unmistaken child DVD / BQ7604 .U56

Unwinking Gaze BQ7935.B774 U58

Words of my perfect teacher DVD / BQ7662.2 .W67

Xiu Xiu DVD / PL2925 .K55 T5319

Xizang si miao= Monasteries in Tibet DVD / BQ6348 .X59 2007

Schedule of Readings and Events
Week 1 Tibet, Shangrila, and Beyond
1/24 Introduction to the Course.
1/26 Tibet, to begin with.
Readings: Matthew Kapstein, The Tibetans, 1-50, e-reserve.


Screening, Angry Monk (2/2) streaming


Week 2 Tibet’s Tibet?


1/31 A Tibetan History of Tibet

Readings: Leonard van der Kuijip, “Tibetan Historiography”; The Fifth Dalai Lama, A History of Tibet, e-reserve.


2/2 The Past as Shangrila? Narratives of Traditional Tibet

Readings: Tashi Tsering, The Struggle for Modern Tibet, 3-47, required text; Dorje Yudon Yuthok, The House of Turquoise Roof, 19-72, e-reserve.

Screening, Samsara (2/9), streaming


Week 3 From Kingdom to Province: The Struggle for Modern Tibet  

2/7 Modernity as Shangrila?

Readings: Tashi Tsering, The Struggle for Modern Tibet, 48-200.


2/8 “Yantra Yoga: Perfect Rhythm of Life,” 6,30 PM, Pruyne Lecture Hall!


2/9 Immigrant Ambassadors: Narratives of Homeland and Exile

Readings: Julia Hess, Immigrant Ambassadors. Citizenship and Belonging in the Tibetan Diaspora, 1-161, e-book.


Screening, The Cup (2/14), and Tibet in Song (2/16), streaming


Week 4 Diasporic Voices: Tibet in Hindi, English, Chinese, and Music

2/14 New Age Namtars

Readings: Laurie McMillin, Chapter 1, “New Age Namtars,” Part 2, Tibet in English, from  113, e-book; Lara Maconi, “Lion of the Snowy Mountains, The Poet Yi dam Tse Ring and his Chinese Poetry,” 165, from Tibet, Self, and the Tibetan Diaspora, e-reserve.


2/15 Screening of Compassion in Exile, 6 PM Pruyne, Fayearweather, with director Mickey Lemle!


2/16 Echoes from Dharamsala

Readings: “The West as Shangrila: Rock and Roll and ragzen as style and ideology,” in Echoes from Dharamsala, 144-174, e-book; Keila Diehl, “When Tibetan Refugees Rock, Paradigms Roll: Echoes from Dharamsala’s Musical Soundscape,” from Constructing Tibetan Cultures: Contemporary Perspectives, 122-159, e-reserve.

Screening Windhorse, Dreaming Lhasa, (2/21), streaming


Week 5 Lhasa as Tibetans’ Shangrila?

2/21             Lhasa Dreams: In class discussion of Windhorse and Dreaming Lhasa

Readings: Clare Harris, “Struggling with Shangrila: A Tibetan Artist in Exile,” from Constructing Tibetan Cultures: Contemporary Perspectives, 160-177.


2/23 The Dalai Manga

Readings: Tetsu Saiwai, The 14th Dalai Lama. A Manga Biography, required text for the course.   


2/26 SUNDAY Field trip to New York City, to visit the Rubin Museum and the Trace Foundation! Details to follow!

Screening, The Serf (2/28), streaming


Week 6 Chinese Narratives of Tibet

2/28 Whose History?

Readings: Anne-Marie Blondeau and Katia Buffetrille, Authenticating Tibet: Answers To China's 100 Questions, xvi-78.


3/ 1 Whose Voice?

Readings: Anne-Marie Blondeau and Katia Buffetrille, Authenticating Tibet: Answers To China's 100 Questions, 79-330.

Screening, Shanggelila= Shangri-La; Zhongguo Xizang= China's Tibet, (Episodes 1 and 2); Xizang ren wu = Tibetan People (all four episodes), streaming


Week 7 香格里拉!

3/6 Mediating Tibet: Tibet and Shangrila in the PRC’s Electric Shadows.

In class discussion of Shangri-La, and China’s Tibet

Readings: Pema Tseden’s Filming in Tibetan


3/8 History as Propaganda part 1

Readings: John Powers, History as Propaganda, required text, 3-150.


Screening, Lost Horizon (3/13), and The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet (3/15), streaming


Week 8 Imagining Tibet: The View from the West

3/13 Imagining Tibet

Readings: Thierry Dodin, Heinz Rather, Imagining Tibet: Perceptions, Projections, And Fantasies, ix-150.   


3/15 The Shadow Circus: USA’s Tibet

Readings: William Dalrymple, Chapter 6, “The Monk’s Tale,” in Nine lives. In Search of the Sacred in Modern India, e-reserve.


Week 9


Screening, Seeds of Tibet: Voices of children in exile (3/29), streaming


Week 10 Shangrila, USA.

3/27 Tibetans in the USA

Readings: Julia Hess, Immigrant Ambassadors. Citizenship and Belonging in the Tibetan Diaspora, 165-230, e-book.


3/29 Creating Oral Histories, Tibetan and Beyond

Readings: Tibet Oral History Project, Kham Film Project, Tibetan Biographies, Step by Step Guide to Oral History, Story Corps, on the course website under “Course Links.”


Screening, Capturing reality: the art of documentary, streaming

Week 11 Shangrila in Western Mass?

4/3 The Art and Technology of the Interview. IT session (details TBA)

4/5 Tibetans in Western Mass: Documenting the Local Tibetan Diaspora.

Readings: “Resources for Planning an Oral History Interview,” under the course website’s “Course Documents.”


Week 12 To the Field!

4/10 Meetings and Interviews with Local Tibetans

4/12 Meetings and Interviews with Local Tibetans


Week 13 And on to the Web!

4/17 Elaboration and preparation of interviews

4/19 Elaboration and preparation of interviews


Week 14 Tibetan Narratives East and West Revisited

4/24 History as Propaganda Part 2

Readings: John Powers, History as Propaganda, required text, 151-162; Wang Lixiong and Tsering Shakya, The Struggle for Tibet, 19-33, 193-275.


4/26 Attempting a Synthesis?

Readings: Robert Barnett, “Violated Specialness”: Western Political Representations of Tibet;” Jamyang Norbu, “Behind the Lost Horizon: Demystifying Tibet;” Thierry Dodin and Heinz Rather, “Imagining Tibet: Between Shangrila and Feudal Oppression, 391, in Imagining Tibet, required text.


Week 15 Our Tibetan Narratives

5/1 In class presentation of interviews’ results

5/3 In class presentation of interviews’ results