Tibetan Diaspora, Mobility and Place: ‘Exiles in Their Own Homeland’

Chris Vasantkumar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article elaborates a theoretical framework for making sense of Tibetans in Tibet who live as ‘exiles in their own homeland’. Placing questions of mobility at the centre of anthropological approaches to diaspora, it subjects ‘the fact of movement’ to critical scrutiny. In so doing it calls into question three fundamental assumptions of recent work in both ‘new mobilities’ and the study of diaspora more broadly: first, that people move and territory does not; second, that ‘place(s)’ and ‘movement(s)’ are different sorts of things, and clearly distinguishable; and, third, that movement takes places only in Euclidean space. Beginning by placing recent Tibetan experiences of exile and diaspora in comparative context, it then works through recent deconstructions of the boundary between movement and place, a critique of Western ethno-epistemologies of movement, and Law and Mol’s work on social topology as theoretical orientations that might allow us to make sense of mobile homelands and diasporas in situ.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-136
Number of pages22
JournalTheory, Culture and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • actor-network theory
  • anthropology
  • diaspora
  • home
  • mobility
  • space
  • topology


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