The Fire is Still Burning

In a shocking article posted to Savage Minds, Carole McGranahan tries to explain why one-hundred forty-one Tibetans have self-immolated in the last twenty years. Given Tibet’s history of hostile invasion in 1949, it’s surprising that this level of protest has relatively recently began taking a foothold in the policed country. Most of these 141 “demonstrations” have taken place in the last five years. It’s a trend that has spiked disproportionately. McGranahan explores why these protesters would resort to this ultimate form of protest. What could bring a person to such extremes? McGranahan walks us through the history of China’s intrusion into Tibet, the mistreatment of religious and government officials, and eventual exile of many native Tibetans. McGranahan said that the only way to really study the self-immolators would be to talk to those who planned on carrying it out, because those who carry it out do so with the intention of dying. And even the survivors, usually the protestors who are stopped by Chinese police, are taken from the spot, their whereabouts now unknown. McGranahan expresses frustration at not being able to create and ethnography on self-immolators because all kinds of journalist are prohibited from entering Tibet to conduct any kind of study. There are more journalists in North Korea than there are in Tibet, which is why self-immolation is not such a globally discussed topic, even though it is a form of radical political protest that has recently grown significantly in trapped Tibet.


One thought on “The Fire is Still Burning

  1. I found this post especially interesting. This post draws attention to a massive problem in anthropological research collected in Tibet. Since many journalists are not allowed into the country, the rest of the world remains unaware of the tragedies currently occurring there.With such a large amount of self-immolation in just the past five years, there needs to be more attention drawn to this devastating form of protest. However, unless Tibet changes their policy on studies being conducted within the country, the rest of the world may never be able to come to understand why these protesters do what they do. Anthropologists and all researchers alike will never be given the opportunity to study the culture or motivations behind such a drastic form of protest. The self-immolation crisis in Tibet will never be heard if the survivors never tell their stories. Perhaps they are wanting to tell their stories, but there is just no one to tell them to. Overall, there needs to be a way for anthropologists and researchers to study this tragic phenomena.

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