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Tibetan Studies at SOAS

The study of the Ganden phodrang aristocracy (1895-1959): new results through prosopography



Dr Alice Travers (CNRS)

Date: 8 February 2013Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 8 February 2012Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College BuildingsRoom: 116

Type of Event: Lecture

Series: Circle of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies

This presentation will discuss some results of a socio-historical investigation into the aristocracy (tib. sku drag) of the Ganden phodrang (tib. Dga’ ldan pho brang), the central government of Tibet, from 1895 to 1959, through a prosopographical study. Oral and written sources (interviews with noble men and women, British archives and autobiographies written by Tibetan noble men and women) made it possible to build up a computerized database. This database provides a basis from which one can analyze the two pillars of noble identity - belonging to a noble lineage and working in the government’s service. The study of this large sample allows one to confirm a number of already known facts, like the relevance of the homogamy principle and the strong division between great houses and minor nobles, and also to refute others, like the assumption of the supremacy of polyandry and patrilineality in the aristocracy, or the declared practice of strict endogamy. Regarding careers, first, the database gives new insights into their general development. Furthermore, its corroborates the absence of specialization of Tibetan noble officials but puts the domination of the high aristocrats over the higher offices into perspective, by showing a certain degree of social mobility within the aristocracy during the period under scrutiny.

Organiser: Dr Ulrich Pagel