Dr. Emily T. Yeh, Professor of Geography, University of Colorado-Boulder: "Shielding the Mountains: Environmentalism and Articulations of Nature in Tibet”

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, transnational conservation organizations working in China began to try to mobilize Tibetan culture and religion in the service of biodiversity conservation. I examine the proliferation of environmental identities, subjectivities, and organizations across Tibet in the early 2000s as a product of a set of contingent articulations between the interest of local Tibetan communities, Chinese environmentalists, and transnational actors.  This created an unexpected space for Tibetan cultural assertion and the possibilities of inter-ethnic collaboration in a fraught political situation. After showing a brief film which focuses on the story of Rinchen Samdrup, who embodied the emergence of the once-promising figure of the ‘Green Tibetan’ in China, I then discuss the work of number of other Tibetan environmental activists. The talk explores the variety of ways in which historically-rooted religious and cultural elements are mobilized in new ways for the protection of the environment, pointing out their commonalities and differences, as well as their convergences and divergences with Western forms of environmentalism. This event is co-sponsored by the History Department, the Religious Studies Department, and the Chinese Studies Department.