CORDIS - EU research results

Territories, Communities and Exchanges in the Sino-Tibetan Kham Borderlands (China)

Final Report Summary - KHAM (Territories, Communities and Exchanges in the Sino-Tibetan Kham Borderlands (China))

This project contributes fresh first-hand historical and anthropological knowledge to the study of socio-cultural diversity of the area of the Sino-Tibetan borderlands situated within the People’s Republic of China and referred to as Kham by Tibetans.
Historically, Kham is regarded as an interface between China proper and Central Tibet, as well as a place in its own right. As such, Kham lies at the crossroads between cultural, economic, and religious exchanges, while constituting a political frontier where both Chinese and Tibetan authorities deployed expansionist policies and introduced new structural and institutional forms to regulate and reinforce the border. This project investigates these processes and assesses the entanglements of the diverse visions of the place and what constitutes the latter. To this end, our research focused on the encounters themselves to highlight the multifaceted roles the Tibetans, the Han, and other ethnicities, both common people and officials, have played along this Sino-Tibetan corridor.
Historians and anthropologists collaborated to explore factors of unity and diversity that characterize this region and its diverse population, and collectively addressed this area as a locale where specific territorial, economic, social, and cultural processes take place. This collaborative work makes a major contribution to the definition of spaces, communities, identities, and areas of influence on different scales and at different periods of time.
The cross-disciplinary research conducted within this project historicizes the frontier enterprise and brings to the fore aspects of state-building policies and processes of territorialization, bureaucratization, education, and production of knowledge. Research on the historical developments of trade and trade routes has also become interlaced with themes such as wealth and value, political control and authority.
Particular attention has been paid to some social characteristics and cultural manifestations as well as contemporary dynamics and socio-economic transformations that affect local societies. The anthropological study of kinship provides new insights into the social morphology of the societies located at the crossroads between Tibet and China while, from an art history and sociology perspective, Kham’s famous metal work has been the object of scrutiny, revealing its thriving activity and the reshaping of networks of production and circulation.