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The Sociopolitical Lives of Dead Bodies: Tibetan Self-Immolation Protest as Mass Media

By Charlene Makley

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Cite As:
Makley, Charlene. 2015. “The Sociopolitical Lives of Dead Bodies: Tibetan Self-Immolation Protest As Mass Media”. Cultural Anthropology 30 (3), 448-76. https://doi.org/10.14506/ca30.3.05.

Abstract

Drawing on fieldwork between 2007–2013 in Amdo Tibetan regions in northwestern China, this article considers the unprecedented spate of self-immolation-by-fire protests among Tibetans in light of the military crackdown on Tibetan unrest beginning in 2008. The author takes a performative approach to Tibetan self-immolation protest as a new and deeply contested genre of mass media in the context of severe state repression. The author argues that such an approach accounts for the always unresolved yet socially and politically constitutive meaning and efficacy of dead bodies in a necropolitics particular to modern Sino-Tibetan relations.

Keywords

China; Tibet; Buddhism; state violence; protest; death; media; spectacle; performativity; affect; liberalism; necropolitics; humanitarianism