9 December │GLASS Lecture │Prof. Clare Harris │Remembering to Forget in Contemporary Tibet

Please join us for the GLASS lecture given by Professor Clare Harris (Oxford University) entitled: Remembering to Forget in Contemporary Tibet: Presenting the Potala Palace as 'Heritage'. 3-5pm, Gravensteen 11. All are welcome.

Date & Time 
9 December 2014

Gravensteen, Room 11
Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden

Reception to follow at the Faculty Club Brasserie

Remembering to Forget in Contemporary Tibet: Presenting the Potala Palace as 'Heritage'

Apart from the Taj Mahal, few historic structures in Asia can compete with the iconic potency of the Potala Palace in Lhasa the erstwhile capital of Tibet. Both these seventeenth century edifices appear to fulfil one of the basic definitions of a monument: they are dedicated to the commemoration of an absent person. But whereas the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan deliberately set out to create a ravishing mausoleum for his wife, the Potala has only become a monument since 1959 when the fourteenth Dalai Lama fled Tibet and sought exile in India. As the supreme embodiment of the Tibetan cause travelling the world in its pursuit, the Dalai Lama’s mobility contrasts greatly with the stubborn immovability of his palace: a building which for many Tibetans now stands as a painful memorial to his absence from the homeland. This talk considers the transformation of the Potala from its previous roles as the residence of the Dalai Lamas, the institutional heart of Tibetan Buddhism and the administrative base of the Tibetan government, into an empty shell that is emphatically claimed as the property of the People’s Republic of China. It examines the processes by which a building of enormous religious and political significance to Tibetans has been converted into a heritage site that fulfils the criteria of UNESCO and a tourist destination that appeals to both domestic and international visitors.  In teasing out the tensions arising from heritage discourse at this site, I argue that in contemporary Tibet monumentalisation has less to do with eliciting memory than with a state-led agenda of "organised forgetting" (Connerton).

Last Modified: 18-11-2014