Social Status in the Tibetan World

The programme of research Social Status in the Tibetan World  was formulated on the basis of the results of the ANR/DFG project The Social History of Tibetan Societies, 17th-20th Centuries (SHTS).  Prior to the inception of the project, the entire topic of Tibetan social history had barely been broached by researchers (the few notable examples were cited in the proposal). This follow-on project, TIBSTAT, is structured around corpora of sources from different areas of the Tibetan world; it has been conceived thematically under the general rubric of social status, and will focus on six completely new research themes that were not addressed, or only addressed cursorily, in SHTS: social mobility; social conflict and conflict resolution; the relationship between economic and social status; social status reflected in fictional Tibetan literature, Tibetan memoirs and other literary genres; gender; social status as manifested in material culture. The scientific notion of social status, which owes much to the pioneering work of Max Weber, has an advantage over other models of stratification and hierarchy thanks to its greater inclusiveness: on the one hand it is not limited to the study of caste societies in which status is largely attributed at birth; nor, on the other hand, does it necessarily reduce status to economic factors, as in Marxist understandings of dialectically-opposed classes. The scope of the category gives it a considerable analytical value for societies along a continuum of hierarchical determinism, from heredity in the case of the most rigid caste societies, to the greater fluidity of so-called “meritocracies” at the other extreme. Tibetan societies invite examination through the lens of social status: while there is certainly considerable variation from one region to another, all the societies in question are situated between the extremes of ascription and achievement.

The project began on 1 March 2016 and  will end on 29 February 2019.