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Tibetan Range Wars: Spatial Politics and Authority on the Grasslands of Amdo



This article focuses on one of the most disturbing features of life on the Tibetan grasslands today: intractable, violent conflicts over pasture. The author argues that understanding spatial and historical dimensions of the process through which Amdo was incorporated into the People's Republic of China (PRC) helps us make sense of these conflicts. State territoriality attempts to replace older socio–territorial identities with new administrative units. However, histories remain inscribed in the landscape and lead to unintended consequences in the implementation of new grassland policies. The author draws on Raymond Williams’ insight into residual formations to theorize the relationship between range conflicts and secular state officials’ lack of authority. At the same time, dispute resolution by religious figures challenges both triumphalist readings of state domination and romantic notions of Tibetan resistance.