Old Photo Sharing and the Politics of Time in Post-2008 Tibet

Kehoe, S. 2021. Old Photo Sharing and the Politics of Time in Post-2008 Tibet. China from the Margins: New Narratives of the Past and Present. Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University 16 - 17 Apr 2021

TitleOld Photo Sharing and the Politics of Time in Post-2008 Tibet
AuthorsKehoe, S.
TypeConference paper
Abstract

Discourses of time are a crucial part of national construction. Through the constant production and reproduction of chronological narratives, discourses of time represent a powerful political resource that works to reduce heterogeneous experiences to a single trajectory of unilinear progress in order to generate particular kinds of historical imagination, consolidate ideas of the nation, and reinforce a national order. Perhaps nowhere in contemporary China are the politics of time quite so prominent and contested than in the case of Tibet. While the Chinese state continues to hold steadfastly to its claims that Tibet has been an integral part of China since the Yuan Dynasty, this has been variously challenged by scholars and activists. Since the demonstrations that erupted across the Tibetan Plateau in 2008, Tibet’s past, present and future have become an increasingly prominent part of Chinese state media reportage about Tibet, used to discredit Tibetan grievances and reaffirm Chinese rule over Tibet. While the expansion of online technologies has allowed the state to consolidate these discourses, they have also provided Tibetans a limited but valuable space to subvert and counter them. This paper examines written and visual discourses of Tibetan temporality across online media in post 2008 China. Focusing on the popular online cultural practice of appropriating, curating, and sharing visual imagestaken by western explorers, army officers and others in early 20th century Tibet, I examine how Tibetans deploy ‘old photos’ across Chinese online spaces as a form of counter storytelling that challenges official representations of time and creates new spaces to re-imagine Tibet’s past, present and future. In doing so, this paper reflects on the possibilities and limitations that online spaces create for interrogating the politics of time surrounding contemporary Tibet in the PRC.

KeywordsChina, Tibet, temporality, media
Year2021
ConferenceChina from the Margins: New Narratives of the Past and Present

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