Tibetan Catholics Subject of History Lecture

The next Mabel W. Formica and Santo D. Formica History Endowment Speaker Series lecture will be presented at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16 by UALR’s Department of History. Dr. Bo Chen of Sichuan University will speak on “Beyond Boundaries of Belief: The Tibetan Catholics of Mar-kham County.”
The lecture at the Arkansas Studies Institute, 401 President Clinton Ave. in Little Rock’s River Market, is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Jeff Kyong-McClain at 501-569-8393.

The talk explains how this pocket of Tibetan Catholics came to be and the struggles its members faced over a century of maneuvering between Western imperialism, advocates of Tibetan independence, and Chinese nation-building. The group also faced religious pressure from Tibetan Buddhists and Chinese Communist Party atheism.

“Nestled among picturesque valleys in eastern Tibet, bordering Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, lies Mar-kham County. By most appearances, it is a Tibetan county, but on closer inspection, visitors are surprised to find that many of the inhabitants are Catholic,” says Chen. “The residents of Mar-kham find themselves at a complex intersection between ethnicity, citizenship, and religion.”

Chen received his doctorate from Peking University and currently teaches anthropology at Sichuan University. He has had visiting scholarships at the Harvard-Yenching Institute, the University of North Carolina, and Duke University. His fieldwork has spanned Tibet and Nepal.

Chen’s primary areas of research interest are the history of Chinese anthropology on Tibetan studies, historical anthropology, kinship, civilization studies, and cross-area comparisons.

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