This exhibit will attempt to highlight the often hidden relations (which is intentional in most cases ) between research and advocacy, whether it be to push against a system or supporting power structures. In particular, the goals of this exhibit would be twofold:1. To portray the involvement of research and its activities in various forms that were sponsored by the State and imperial empires which went onto construct images of Tibet and Tibetan that continue upto this day but were constructed with the intent of strengthening certain power structures and policies. 2. Drawing from this, to push forward the notion of “Research as Advocacy” that argues for the explicit involvement of researchers in the political and social struggles of the Tibetan people ( instead of it being hidden or outright ignored) and the impetus for that involvement being a central part of their research.
In conjunction to this objective, the exhibit will pushes against two structures: 1. Images of Tibet and Tibetans as being ‘spiritual’, ‘non-violent’ ,etc as being constructed out of the fascination of explorers or the goodwill of the supporters but rather as being the product of imperial and state designs that have been at play for centuries. 2. Pushing back against the still existing belief in Tibetan studies that research needs to be ‘neutral’ if it seeks to be valid and that the standard of ‘neutrality’ is held against even more strongly against Tibetan researchers who are seen by nature as being ‘biased’ or ‘subjective’.
In terms of the participants and stakeholders of this exhibit, for the former, I hope that this exhibit is viewed by all Tibetans that are interested but in particular, the participants that I imagine would be part of the exhibit are:
1. Tibetan activists
2. Young Tibetan researchers from various disciplines.
3. Young researchers that are not Tibetan but are interested in working in Tibetan studies
4. Established scholars of Tibetan studies
For the latter, I certainly would be a major stakeholder in this exhibit. But other that myself, it would be the people who would contribute to the materials of the exhibits such as pictures, documents, personal objects, etc. Furthermore, I hope to bring in the collaboration of Tibetan activists as well as Tibetan scholars from various disciplines in building this archive and expanding the scope of its objective as well as making such collaboration itself a part of the archive.
As for the content of the exhibit, they would be categorized primarily in four ways, namely:
1. Pictures and images
2. Archival documents and letters at an official as well as non-official level
3. In particular, snapshots from journal entries, newspaper cuttings and diaries of Western journalists, researchers, etc that went into the construction of images. Similarly, images of Chinese State propaganda and ‘research’ output which attempts to push Tibet within the image of the Chinese nation state.
4. Images and digital recordings of examples outside of the Tibetan context of research being a tool of advocacy in other communities so as to highlight the possibility of the same in the Tibetan community.
The exhibit is designed not to showcase something completely new or emotional in order to move people but rather attempt to lay out the political designs and history of the images that Tibetans today have incorporated at deep level within their own thinking about their identity ( “we are non-violent” or “Buddhism is what makes us different” or “The idea of Tibet as a nation with a unified culture, history and language is organic to Tibet “) and push them to look beyond assumptions into how these images have been constructed over the decades. Similarly, through such introspection, attempt to push aside the idea of Tibetans as being ‘victims’ of the past and the West being the only savior of its present and future but rather push forward for advocacy at the level of research
Finally, in terms of installation designs, I do see this exhibit being installed both online ( the PECE platform would be a great starting point) as well as in physical locations as temporary moving exhibits that can be easily set up in universities, schools, public spaces and moved from different locations.