WASTED LIVES: A Critical Analysis of China’s Campaign to End Tibetan Pastoral Lifeways | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
May 2015
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This report is an extended analytical essay, on the perverse outcomes of statist interventions into customary land management practices over a huge area that has been managed sustainably and productively by Tibetan pastoralists for 9000 years. Building on the many reports on sedentarisation, and removal of pastoral nomads from their pastures, this report takes a wider perspective, seeking to understand how the current collapse of the pastoral mode of production came about, and what the future prospects are for the depopulating pastoral landscapes of the Tibetan Plateau. While thoroughly referenced, this is both a descriptive report and an analytic synthesis of the reasons underlying the accelerating demise, in many Tibetan areas, of pastoral lifeways. This report tracks the history of China’s gaze over the grasslands, encouraging the reader to learn to see like a modern state seeking to establish its presence on vast production landscapes where there had never, until the 1950s, been a presence of Chinese power on the ground. This report traces an arc of Chinese “grass industry” policy ( to use China’s terminology) as it shifted gradually from a productivist ideology aimed at producing more meat, to a conservationist ideology today, while never cancelling the institutions, regulations, incentives and interventions that require Tibetan pastoralists to intensify production. The nomads are caught in the ongoing tension between productivism and conservation, both of which impose costs on them, reduce their options, and induce their slide into poverty.

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