Tibetan Studies & the Social Sciences

With generous support from the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, Columbia University Libraries hosted a two-day workshop on "Modern Tibetan Studies and the Social Sciences: Data, Tools, Maps and Archives" on February 6-7, 2008. The conference sought to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to consider the Himalayan region as a short-term or long-term topic of study, by demonstrating the availability of data and research tools that could be applied in their social science and pre-professional coursework. A second aim was to promote use of the vast amount of recently acquired Tibetan-related social science resources, statistical yearbooks, and related databases.

A total of 71 students, faculty, and affiliates of Tibetan-related institutions in the area participated in the workshop, with student-attendees from Cornell, University of Virginia, University of Colorado-Boulder, Washington University (St. Louis), Harvard, Indiana University, Columbia, Barnard, and SUNY-Stonybrook.

The workshop featured five leading scholars in the area of Tibetan social sciences and GIS mapping: Geoff Childs (Washington University at St. Louis), Andrew Fischer (Institute of Social Studies, The Hague), Karl Ryavec (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point), Emily Yeh (University of Colorado-Boulder), and Tsering Wangyal Shawa (Princeton). Speakers from Columbia included faculty Gray Tuttle and Robert Barnett, GIS librarian Jeremiah Trinidad-Christensen and Chinese Studies Librarian Chengzhi Wang. The event was organized and co-moderated by Tibetan Studies Librarian Lauran Hartley.
The panel discussion on Day One focused on the state of the field and noteworthy studies, followed by demonstrations of research models for GIS mapping, Demography of Tibetan populations, Cultural and Human Geography, and Social and Political Economy. The evening closed with a screening of the film Kokonor (Purple Productions, 2008), which documents economic development, environmental degradation, and the underside of the tourist trade on the shores of Qinghai Lake.
On Day Two, participants visited the C.V. Starr East Asian Library and Lehman Library for hands-on workshops to practice using local histories, GIS software, film/video editing software, and social science statistical packages. Jeff Wallman of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (NYC) also demonstrated the TBRC core text collections and Knowledge Base with place/name directory. At the onsite lunch, sponsored by the Weatherhead Institute, new archival acquisitions in the Starr Library were featured, together with a demonstration of databases for news articles, Foreign Broadcast Information Service reports, etc., from the 1950s to the present.

Video proceedings and related resources are archived here: