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A case study of Tibetan educators in India and Nepal: Constructing community in diaspora

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
This research explores identity processes and approaches to professional practice of Tibetan educators working within schools administered by the Tibetan Government-in-exile (TGIE) in India and Nepal. Since 1960, schools administered by the TGIE have been centrally involved in the diaspora’s efforts to support the physical and cultural survival of individuals, and of the community as a whole. Schools attempt to support the development of youth who identify both as global citizens, and as Tibetans whose practices are consistent with historical values. Sociocultural theories of identity and community, agency and history-in-person, post-structural theories of globalization, and theories of liberatory pedagogy, are utilized to interpret data from open-ended interviews with 29 educators. Educators’ perceptions of their personal histories within the Tibetan diasporic struggle, their views on their positioning in relation to the rest of the world, and their processes of negotiating and making sense of responsibilities they associate with their work are investigated. Analysis reveals differing perspectives of four generations. The generations are distinguished by their circumstances in their early years: those born before or during their family’s 1959 exodus from Tibet, those born in refugee camps in the 1960s, those born in the early years of refugee settlements in the 1970s, and New Arrivals who escaped from Tibet in the 1980s. Personal histories, current circumstances, globalization, and hoped-for futures, frame the contexts in which educators shape and implement their professional practices. Notions of personal and community empowerment and liberatory pedagogy are apparent as educators work with youth to promote particular futures for their community. Five decades of change globally and within Tibetan communities in India and Nepal, have altered the daily lives of Tibetans and generated shifts in the futures educators can imagine. These changes are reflected in an increasingly global outlook amongst Tibetan teachers (and students), and tension in the community struggles to define and maintain Tibetan national identity in diaspora. Efforts of educators to support and maintain cultural continuity and community affiliation for new generations of youth are fraught with challenges, necessitating creativity and innovation in vision and in practice.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Beynon, June
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