Tashi Dawa: Magical realism and contested identity in modern Tibet

Patricia Schiaffini-Vedani, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation focuses on the writer Tashi Dawa, who in the 1980s became the most famous Tibetan writer in China, and one of the most controversial figures associated with modern Tibet. The controversy surrounding Tashi Dawa revolves around his half-Tibetan half-Han ethnic background, his writings in Chinese language and his use of a magical realistic style. The very few studies about his works tend to interpret them in opposite terms: some affirm his stories portray Tibetan traditions in order to oppose the Chinese domination of Tibet, while others accuse them of misrepresenting Tibetan culture to satisfy the Chinese taste for the exotic. ^ This dissertation addresses relevant topics neglected by previous scholarship, such as an in-depth study of Tashi Dawa's early realistic works, and what his progression from realism to magical realism tells us about his ethnic transition from being regarded as a Han to being regarded as a Tibetan. Contrary to the generalized assumption that Tashi Dawa's magical realism is based on the author's imitation of Gabriel Garcia Márquez, this dissertation explains the origins of his writing style in terms of his culturally hybrid identity. Through the analysis of Tashi Dawa's magical realistic works and a comparison of his life and ideas with those of other magical realistic writers, this study defends that Tashi Dawa arrived to magical realism as a result of a common process experienced by other culturally hybrid writers all over the world. Tashi Dawa, like these writers, rediscovered his native land after being educated under the culture of the colonizer and, he also wanted to find literary alternatives to the dominant (socialist) realism. Finally, this dissertation also explores how the controversy surrounding Tashi Dawa relates to the debate about Tibet's right to independence, and how this political and ethnic conflict affects the literature produced in Tibet and the ways in which scholars approach it. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Comparative|Literature, Asian

Recommended Citation

Schiaffini-Vedani, Patricia, "Tashi Dawa: Magical realism and contested identity in modern Tibet" (2002). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3054992.