“Dying Mongol and Reborn Tibetan”: Otherness and Integration of Foreigners in the Landscape of Amdo

Contesting Authority - Vernacular Knowledge and Alternative Beliefs - Marion Bowman

Valentina Punzi [+-]
Humboldt University
Valentina Punzi received a double Ph.D. in Asian Studies at L’Orientale University of Naples and Tibetan Studies at Minzu University of China in May 2014. From 2007 until 2014 she did extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the Tibetan areas of western China and presented the results of her research at international conferences and through peer-reviewed articles. She is currently pursuing a postdoctoral research project at the Central Asia Seminar of Humboldt University. My main research focus is on Tibetan post-revolution oral history, place-lore, traditional geographic knowledge and vernacular beliefs in the region of Amdo (Qinghai, PRC).


In the nowadays politically fragmented territory of ethnic Tibet, Amdo Tibetans occupy the northeastern area of the Tibetan plateau, now included in the Chinese province of Qinghai. From the thirteenth century onwards, this vast area of grasslands and mountain peaks has been under the discontinuous rule of Mongols. A clear trace of this foreign occupation is still detectable in the oral descriptions of the landscape and the belief narratives retold in the nomadic county of Zekok in southeastern Qinghai Province. Based on ten oral narrations, recorded between 2011 and 2014 in Zekok about the Mongol ancestry of a local Tibetan protector god, I aim to explore the narrative strategies implemented in deconstructing the historical Mongol presence in the area and reconstructing it into a belief narrative. By analysing the relationship between the autochthonous Tibetan agency of a protector god with the advent of the Mongol army, this paper explores how these narratives contribute to elaborate the Mongol presence in Amdo within a Tibetan cultural frame. These belief narratives show how by transposing an historical event into a legendary setting, Mongols’ foreign identity has been first stereotyped and then gradually incorporated in the Tibetan landscape.

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Punzi, Valentina. “Dying Mongol and Reborn Tibetan”: Otherness and Integration of Foreigners in the Landscape of Amdo. Contesting Authority - Vernacular Knowledge and Alternative Beliefs. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2020. ISBN 9781781792377. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=29216. Date accessed: 17 Jun 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.29216. Oct 2020

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