Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Lisa Mitchell


This research is based on eighteen months of fieldwork in the Tibetan communities and settlements of Dharamsala, Bengaluru, and Bylakuppe, in India, and in New York and Washington, D.C. Through interviews and archival research, I develop a multilayered understanding of an alternate political configuration—what I have called the deterritorialized Tibetan nation—that emerges through protest practices, political participation, and alternate claims of national belonging by Tibetans across a transregional space of exile. Through these practices, Tibetans transform settlements from sites of displacement and exclusion into spaces of national belonging. Thus, this political entity, by the very nature of its existence, challenges the limits imposed by a global order of nation-states that “secretes” statelessness. My research is broadly concerned with four interrelated questions: (1) How do stateless communities continue to articulate alternate models of nationhood despite the hegemony of the global order of nation-states? (2) How are stateless communities engaging with and challenging discriminatory and exclusionary citizenship regimes in host nations? (3) What are the intracommunity conflicts and compromises that arise due to geopolitical conditions of statelessness? (4) How do conditions of stateless precarity compromise and motivate communal intimacy? To answer this, I study practices ranging from invocations of national fervor across a transnational “citizenry” following self-immolations and hunger strikes, to voting, paying taxes to an exile state, and forging and celebrating their affective ties as a national community. In surveying a shifting geopolitical landscape from the Cold War to the Global War on Terror, I show that far from being mere victims of their circumstances, the Tibetans are active political actors capable of protecting the interests of their fragile polity. But this is no triumphant story: I also show how these global shifts exact costs on the community, fomenting schisms, paranoia, and intracommunity conflict.


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