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Centre of Governance & Human Rights (CGHR)


11th June 2012

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

Dr Fiona McConnell (Department of Geography, University of Cambridge)

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 investigated 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 focused 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 explored how futures are anticipated and acted upon at the scale of the nation, and examined what happens to these anticipatory logics when the time frame is extended indefinitely. More generally, it was argued that this case challenges both teleological assumptions about state-building and the presumed correlation between statehood and permanence, and statelessness and temporariness.