Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Sherrie Larkin


The Tibetan identity first emerged as “resistance” (Winland 2002; Scott 1990). The united pan-Tibetan identity did not originally resonate with the diverse group of ethnic minorities living on the Tibetan plateau until post-Chinese occupation. Then, all the groups saw the mutual benefit of adopting the united Tibetan identity against what they perceived as a greater threat to their culture and values. As such the initial Tibetan identity that is projected internationally was harnessed as a “weapon”(Bauman and Vecchi 2004:74) against homogenizing Chinese citizenship and was intimately intertwined with activism.

My research focuses on the formation of diasporic Tibetan identities within the Toronto Tibetan community. Following the 1959 Chinese occupation of Tibet that displaced many Tibetans to India and Nepal, the first wave of 228 Tibetans migrated to Canada in 1970-1971. Presently, Canada contains a Tibetan community in exile of around 6000 (Government of Canada 2014), and yet there have been few recent studies that focus on how Tibetan newcomers have experienced life in Canada. The first part of the thesis will be a literature review of the history of Tibetan migration to Canada, the multifaceted sense of Tibetan identity, as resistance, remembering the “homeland” (real and imagined) and creating diasporic “spaces of belonging” (Robins 2001). The second part will touch upon the recent paradigm shift from viewing Tibetan identity as resistance to a decolonizing project. Finally I will be sharing some of my findings from my fieldwork research with the Toronto Tibetan community in the summer of 2016. My research on contemporary Tibetan identit(ies) will contribute to the ongoing dialogue of non-status people and refugees finding spaces for justice and equality in an unequal world.