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Rehearsing the state: the governance practices of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile

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With the split mandate of continuing the struggle for the homeland and dealing with the immediate needs of a refugee community, exile polities have a very particular sense of political temporality. Based on ethnographic research on the Tibetan Government-in-Exile based in India, this paper investigates this active state-in-waiting; a set of institutions, practices and actors through which this exiled community is experimenting, modifying and rehearsing statehood in order to employ it ‘for real’ back in the homeland. Bringing critical theories of the state into dialogue with geographies of temporality the paper focuses on the idea of rehearsal, and four cuts at rehearsing exile Tibetan stateness will be explored: rehearsal spaces in terms of the function of exile settlements; the various roles adopted and prescribed within the exile community; scripts developed for planning the present and imagining the future; and the role of audiences for these performances of statecraft. In setting the means through which futures are made present alongside issues of prolonged waiting, the paper explores how futures are anticipated and acted upon at the scale of the nation, and examine what happens to these anticipatory logics when the time frame is extended indefinitely. More generally, it will be argued that this case challenges both teleological assumptions about state-building and the presumed correlation between statehood and permanence, and statelessness and temporariness.

This talk is part of the Centre of Governance and Human Rights Events series.

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