Locating Selves in 21st Century Tibet: Tibetan Youth Identity and Hip Hop in the People’s Republic of China
Georgetown University School of Foreign Service
This paper uses the lens of hip hop to examine contemporary Tibetan youth identity in China. Based on an analysis of the hip hop scenes in four Tibetan cities, as well as online virtual space, the study finds that the Tibetan hip hop scene is a site for Tibetan young people with diverse opinions and outlooks to negotiate their identities under the larger social structure in the People’s Republic of China. A large number of Tibetan hip hop artists use hip hop as a tool to redefine Tibetan identity for a mainstream Chinese audience. They do so by expressing pride for their cultural and religious traditions, challenging the stereotype of underdeveloped Tibetans, advocating for inter-ethnic equality, and revealing the flaws and injustices of certain government policies. This growing nationalism, however, can sometimes be counterproductive as ethnic identity becomes essentialized and commercialized. Debates surrounding the issue of language and ethnic identity point to the diversity of opinions on the relationship between Tibetan identity the Tibetan language. The contestations surrounding identity within the Tibetan hip hop scene reflects the complex intersection of the various forces at play in Tibet today and the ever-shifting nature of “Tibetan-ness.”
Georgetown University. School of Foreign Service. Asian Studies Program.
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