Apropos 'the Tibetans': Reinier Langelaar's talk focuses on the mythical origins and the promotion of ethnicity in historical Tibet
There are ongoing interdisciplinary debates concerning the age and origins of inter-regional collective identities. Although recent work on “ethnicity” and “nationalism” has repeatedly highlighted the role of religion and myth in nurturing large-scale communal identities even in the pre-modern period, the modernist paradigm – associated with authors such as Anderson, Hobsbawm and Gellner – still retains theoretical hegemony. In Tibetan studies, the history of the ethnic category of “the Tibetans” (bod pa) is yet to be thoroughly probed.
This talk will explore the promise that historical Tibetan literature holds for these larger debates. It will touch on the central role of Buddhism and Buddhist myths in sustaining and fortifying the notion of “the Tibetans” (bod pa) in the pre-modern period, and make preliminary remarks on the salience of this identity across various regions of the Tibetan Plateau.