In 2008 a wave of political unrest broke out across Tibetan regions in China. Characterized by street protests, inter-communal violence, and, later, by self-immolations, the political unrest was the most widespread since the annexation of Tibetan areas in the first decade of the People's Republic of China. And yet, although the unrest spread far and wide across the Tibet Plateau, not all areas were affected. This seminar draws on recent fieldwork in eastern Tibet to provide tentative answers to the question "why have some Tibetan localities mobilized politically while others have not?" Findings challenge previous scholarship on this subject, and shed light on political developments in Tibetan areas, including the dynamics of integration, state-society relations, the efficacy of China's nation-building project, and the prospects for further unrest.

Ben Hillman of the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, is a comparative political scientist who specializes in ethnic politics and policies in China and Asia. He has worked as an advisor to Governments and the United Nations on peace building and post-conflict governance strategies. His book Patronage and Power: Local State Networks and Party-state Resilience in Rural China (Stanford University Press, 2014) examines local political institutions and decision-making in China’s ethnically diverse western regions. He is co-editor (with Gray Tuttle) of Ethnic Protest and Conflict in Tibet and Xinjiang: Unrest in China’s West (Columbia University Press, 2016). Dr. Hillman’s current research investigates the relationship between local patterns of governance and conflict in China’s Tibetan areas.

Ben Hillman's publications: