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Title: Sovereignty without territory? : the political geographies of the Tibetan Government-in-exile
Author: McConnell, Fiona Rozanne
ISNI:       0000 0001 2398 9331
Awarding Body: Queen Mary University of London
Current Institution: Queen Mary, University of London
Date of Award: 2010
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Based on ethnographic research on exiled Tibetan political institutions and practices in India, this thesis investigates sovereignty in exile. The Tibetan Government-in-exile (TGiE), based in India since 1960, remains internationally unrecognised, has limited judicial powers and lacks de jure sovereignty over territory in both Tibet and in exile. However, this exiled administration claims legitimacy as the official representative of the Tibetan population, attempts to make its voice heard within the international community and performs a number of state-like functions in relation to its diasporic 'citizenry'. Given that conventional political theory is premised on the territorially-bounded sovereign nation-state as a container for political activity, and governments are legitimated according to the territory over which they hold authority, this is an exceptional case of a government which appears to refute these orthodox assumptions. As such, this study of the form, functioning and limitations of TGiE and of its existence and state-like operations within another sovereign state, raises important theoretical issues which speak directly to political geography's concerns with power and space. These include the nature of sovereignty, the extent to which sovereignty can be disentangled from jurisdiction over territory, and the role of 'the exception' in geopolitical discourses. Employing multi-sited ethnographic methodologies, the broad aims of this research are to investigate what kind of political entity the TGiE is, and to examine the nature ofthe sovereignty it articulates. To do so, attention is paid to Tibetan settlements in exile as sites of sovereignty, TGiE's construction of a Tibetan 'population' in exile and its management of livelihoods, the negotiation of exilic political identities, and the strategic spatialities of TGiE's election systems. Rejecting realist arguments that polities such as TGiE should be viewed merely as discrepant forms of political practice, it is argued that if sovereignty is understood as historically contingent and socially constructed - and the state, sovereignty, and territory thereby conceptually disentangled - this opens up the theoretical possibility of territorial-less sovereign polities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: ESRC ; University of London Central Research Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Tibet ; Political geography ; Ethnographic research