Tenzing Wangdak's Research Space


Tenzing Wangdak is a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. His research revolves around the Tibetan diasporic communities, through the thematic concerns of hybrid citizenships, migration, nation building in exile, public spaces, digital media, activism, quotidian understandings of belongingness and transnational connections/disruptions of 'home' and memories. In particular, his research attempts to trace and understand constructions and performance of diasporic identities beyond the realms of the State and Nation. 

The research paradigm is also focused on the building of community archives with the purpose of centering the margins in conversations with marginalized or arrested histories of Tibetan communities, such as Tibetan muslims and  Tibetans of mixed heritage as well as tracing the cross border connections and disrputions betweeen Tibet and the Himalayan region. 


Doctoral Research Project

Tenzing's doctoral research project is situated at the intersection of two broad questions : How are identities constructed and performed within the context of the nation building project in exile and the desire for a 'home' that the former seeks to realize? AND as the diaspora continues to diversify and expand, how are everyday performances of belongingness and memory practices negotiaged within the context of cross border loyalties and connections and the changing spatial and temporal positionality of 'home' and the absence of it? 

Therefore, within these two questions, the project will attempt to trace the presence or absence of a Digital Tibetan Self (s), within the context of digital spaces as public and/or memory building spaces. What is (are) the natures of these spaces and selves in the context of changing Tibetan diasporic constructions of identity that are moving beyond the realms of methodological nationalism? How are practices of memory and narratives of belongingness negotiated within and across these virtual, transnational spaces and physical space  in relation to a 'home' that is imagined, fleeting and plural? 


Images and Identity

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Tibetan Parliament in exile

Along with the Judiciary and Executive Body, the Tibetan Parliament in exile comprise what is known as the three pillars of Tibetan democracy. Established in 1960, the Parliament has undergone numerous changes, the two most significant being the election of the members by democratic vote sought from Tibetans across the diaspora and a representative democracy i.e. equal seats (10 each) given to members from the three traditional provinces of Tibet. The representation here, therefore, is a one of Tibet as a whole, not the demographic of the diaspora, with the intent of pushing forward the Government and Parliament as one of the Tibetan people and nation as a whole. 

Identity Certificate

The Identity Certificate ( I.C) along with the Registration Certiticate ( R.C) are the primary material documents that delimit the identity of Tibetans in India as foreigners by the Indian Government. The I.C. as noted by the latter is "a travel document in lieu of a National Passport". The materiality of the Tibetan identity as framed by the Indian Government is therefore based around the temporal association of 'temporary resident' instead of the more permanent paradigm of asylum seekers. 

Mak-dog monastery

This monastery was built right after the of the Second World War. Commissioned by the existing Tibetan population in Darjeeling before the exile of Tibetans in 1959, the monastery was a commemoration of the end of the War, giving meaning to a space that would later be seen as 'sacred' with subsequent 'setting' up of a cemetery and a Buddhist Center around the monastery. "Mak - dog" in Tibetan translates to blocking or obstructing War. 

Proposed Exhibit: Research as Advocacy

This exhibit will attempt to highlight the often hidden relations (which is intentional in most cases ) between research and advocacy, whether it be to push against a system or supporting power structures. In particular, the goals of this exhibit would be twofold:1. To portray the involvement of...Read more