The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Student Profiles

Yang Li

Project title: Screening Tibet from Three Perspectives: An Exploration of  Representations of Tibet in Western, Tibetan and Han Chinese Films

Supervisors: Prof Elaine Campbell and Dr Sabrina Yul

This research will identify and explore the intersections of social space and film space in cinematic representations/aesthetics of Tibet. It will seek to explore questions of colonialism, subaltern status, and the power of elite groups/domination that characterise the Tibet issue through a comparative analysis of screening Tibet in Western, Tibetan and Han Chinese films. The research will draw from the field of Subaltern Studies to provide a fresh and deeper perspective on, and an empirical and theoretical understanding of, postcolonial power in the context of Tibet.

In general, there are two key concepts of my research project. Firstly, the research will move beyond the conception of colonialism commonly applied to the issues of Tibet. More specifically, the issues of Tibet will be explored using postcolonial theory, especially, subaltern studies, which can be considered to be of great significance in discussing Tibetan issues. Secondly, the research will explore the discourse of ‘subaltern’ within films about Tibet, from the different socio-political and cultural perspectives: Western, Tibetan, and Han Chinese. In this respect, the research will discuss the central question of Subaltern Studies, that is ‘Can the Subaltern Speak’ (Spivak, 1990) in Tibetan films?

This research will concentrate on a Subaltern Studies approach to the experience of screening Tibet/Tibetan issues. In doing so, sociology and film studies speak to each other in a broad context of postcolonial studies. Therefore, this research will be developed using a series of methodological approaches, these are cinematic approaches including discourse, representational, and textual/contextual analysis alongside a variety of sociological perspectives, including colonial, contemporary colonial, postcolonial and subaltern analysis. I will also conduct a qualitative reading of film production notes from directors as some interview records can be found in the public media.