Doing exile at the school in exile: The case of Tibetan Children's Village

Author Name

Iris Ruyu Lin

Author Address

Room no.132, Humanities and Sciences Building, IIT Madras, [email protected]


Taiwan international forced migration, language and identity.


There are about 130,000 Tibetans who have temporarily settled in India on a political refugee status for more than half a century. The exiled political organization, Central Tibetan administration(CTA), which self-claimed to be the only legitimate representative of Tibet and Tibetans, has embedded as an estate apparatus in exile within Indian state. With the financial aid and permission from Indian central government, CTA performs as a full ruling body only in the arena of education upon Tibetan refugee schools. Aiming to preserve the traditional culture, it mobilizes the historical data, cored with religious symbols, enclosed in the disciplines gradually developed within a boarding school scheme, to construct an "official nationalism", which contradicts to the integration policy of the People's Republic of China(PRC)'s idea of ethnic minority on Tibetans. While re-inventing the new standardized form of a culturally diverse civilization also adapting to the challenge for survival, the state-within-a-state also intend to settle the incoming refugees and to incorporate the exile community in India through education. PRC's and CTA's political propagandas have been competing to justify their orthodoxy to decide "Tibet's future". While PRC's strategy is to persuade that Tibet has gone through an economically better-off cycle as a  result of being liberated by the communist reform, CTA works on the discourse of defining the "indigenous Tibetan" in the ideological education towards the young generation.

Following the above context, this paper suggests that the premise of a refugee identity was established on the confirmation to recognize the status of Tibet as an independent country before the Chinese invasion in 1949. This premise also granted the legitimacy for the overseas political organization especially when the XIV Dalai Lama decided to withdraw from the political leadership. Tibetan children came to exile and born in exile, grew up in a closed campus with foster care institutions which mimics  the tradition and creates a pseudo-lineage among teachers, domestic helpers and students. The younger generation receives school education of a standardized curriculum, which tries  to cover both Indian and Tibetan standards, and adapts to a parental relationship with their teachers. The younger generations have shown  their agency performing a rather secular, globalized, at times rebellious self, different from the elder generations. This paper is aimed to depict the development of an autonomous refugee education body and the dynamic outcome of a state-designed institutional social reproduction by covering the history of Tibetan education in exile and drew texts from the school life and essays from the exile students.


International Conference on Migration, Diaspora and Development
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