China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
In this paper, I explore the unintended effects of the state administrative hierarchy on the Tibetan Plateau. Studies interrogating the workings of state power have shown that the “state” is not a concretely existing entity. Instead its illusion of concreteness is produced through numerous actors, from bureaucrats in institutions to citizens who consent to state practices.Even in the absence of a concretely locatable state entity, these various actors and institutions create state effects that have very real and material consequences in everyday lives (Alonso 1994; Abrams 1988; Gupta 2012; Mitchell 1991; Scott 1999; Trouillot 2003; 2001). However, I argue that such state practices also create unintended effects: While state practices work towards various projects, such as dividing land and people into governable jurisdictions, these practices may have unintended side effects that are brought into being through the state system, but do not necessarily resist or engage with state practices. I follow two examples of unintended effects of state practices: Tibetans using state administrative units as the basis for articulating historical Tibetan regions, and creating new social categories from within institutions of the state, specifically that of schools. In both instances, the very acts of dividing people and places into administrative spaces did not simply replace prior Tibetan networks and social meanings, but brought both together in surprising ways. By highlighting other meanings of places and people, Tibetan members rework a social landscape among themselves that builds upon, and sometimes crosscuts, the administrative spaces of the state.