MODERN ASIAN STUDIES REVIEW Vol.5 新たなアジア研究に向けて5号
20/112

I Where the Issue Lies: Two Trends in Tibetan Studies?The words “modern Tibet” represent something that is so complex and diverse that it confounds simple-minded observers, and this diversity has for many years hampered the establishment of Tibetology as part of regional studies in the broad sense of the term. This paper aims to undertake the work of probing the actual structure of this diversity. Specifically, while reflecting on the history of Tibetan studies from the standpoint of social science, I hope to accomplish my objective by broadly positioning such a history in the context of modern Tibetan studies. Anthropology has played a unique role in studies on modern Tibet, and one task of this paper is to use the aforementioned process to appraise and contextualize its role.1We will begin by using the question raised by Geoffrey Samuel, a renowned scholar in Tibetan studies, as a springboard. Samuel points out that anthropological studies of Tibetan society rely on ethnographical studies of Tibetan communities in the Nepalese Himalayas (the southern foothills of the Himalayan mountain range). He argues that this situation results in many anthropologists focusing their research on the Sherpa people, and upholding them as representatives of the Tibetan people. Samuel has referred to this research trend as “Sherpa-centrism,” and he has contrasted this with the “Lhasa-centrism,” which is the trend among political historians [SAMUEL 1993. 1994.] Lhasa-centrist studies refers to historical studies that seek to shed light on the true state of society in central Tibet under the former Dalai Lama regime, which collapsed in 1959. What is most intriguing is the fact that in the process of explaining this dichotomy, Samuel uses the expressions “Sherpa-centric anthropologists” and “Lhasa-centric textual scholars” [SAMUEL 1994:700]. In other words, Samuel ultimately presents this dichotomy as a dichotomy of anthropologists and textual scholars. It is certainly true that in Tibetan studies, as in many regional studies, there exist two contrasting academic trends: the trend followed by social scientists, who place weight on field surveys, and that followed by textual scholars, who place weight on textual studies. It is, in fact, standard practice among many exemplary reviews on Tibetology to begin by discussing the importance of this distinction.2 The issue that Samuel presents is itself extremely useful, and I have no objection to the terminology of “dichotomy” itself.3 The real issue is that Samuel considers Lhasa-centrist research as the work of textualist scholars. The areas of study that actually make frequent use of Tibetan texts, aside from Buddhism studies, include ancient history and medieval history. These research areas fall outside the framework of Samuel’s schema, which primarily assumes modern research. Thus, the Lhasa-centric research that Samuel mentions refers to the history of modern Tibet. However, as far as I am aware, Lhasa-centric studies, i.e. the history of modern Tibet, is a research area that is led not by historians, but by anthropologists. It is therefore my assertion that the two trends of Sherpa-centrism and Lhasa-centrism did not belong respectively to the two divergent traditions of anthropology and history, but were in fact two trends within anthropological Tibetan studies. In fact, this is not an argument that requires much debate. Researchers such as Melvyn Goldstein, whose work [GOLDSTEIN 1989a, 2007] is said to represent the pinnacle of Tibetan modern history studies, and Tony Huber, who produced the ArticlesConferences& LecturesResearchActivitiesModern Tibetan Studies and the Issue of Substitutive EthnographyOKAWA KensakuAuthor016MODERN ASIAN STUDIES REVIEW Vol.5

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