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Abstract

Among Tibetans living in exile in India, expressions of longing and sadness for family, friends and places in Tibet are not uniformly shared across members of the community. Time and distance have faded and idealized their homeland in the memories of long-term exiles. Yet, for a segment of this community called New Arrivals, who have only relatively recently left Tibet, people and places “back home” are real and immediate. The immediacy of these ties to Chinese Tibet, however, often engenders perceptions of New Arrivals as Sinicised, backward and uneducated. This paper focuses on these New Arrivals in the enclave of McLeod Ganj, India, home to the Tibetan exile government and approximately 7,000 Tibetan exiles. In this predominately Tibetan area, the division between long-term exiles and New Arrivals constitutes the dominant social boundary among McLeod Ganj Tibetans, a division that is most prominent among McLeod Ganj’s Tibetan youth. Drawing from community discourses, social networks and practices, and educational institutions, I analyse everyday written forms (e.g., poetry, letters, diary entries) to suggest that through these writings, New Arrival youth are constituting and reconstructing their marginalized position within the community. In an exile community where resources are limited, improving the position of New Arrivals can be challenging. Here, I suggest two approaches to the difficulties these youth face. First, re-educating the larger Tibetan community in order to breakdown the prejudices that exist toward these new exiles. Second, refashioning the existing educational institutions for New Arrivals to better prepare them for employment in the Tibetan communities or elsewhere in India.