“Change for a Better Future”: International Development in Eastern Tibet

  • Gillian G. Tan
Part of the Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation book series (STHE, volume 10)


According to literature on international development, the concept of underdevelopment is central to the working and maintenance of the industry. While acknowledging the continued impact of this concept, an ethnographic emphasis on development practitioners highlights a corollary definition of development as “change for a better future.” Moreover, on the Tibetan plateau, this definition is influenced by a stable idea of Tibet and the imperative to preserve and ensure continuity of its culture. Material interventions are used to maintain this image and offset changes thought to undermine it. To support this argument, the chapter provides an ethnography of one project introduced to establish co-managed grasslands in eastern Tibet, detailing how Tibetan nomadic pastoralists interacted with the plans introduced by a development organization. In this chapter, the discursive and non-material aspects behind products of change are included although international development organizations as is the Chinese state are ultimately focused on providing material interventions to nomadic pastoralist communities. Even though international development organizations and the Chinese state are guided by differently articulated intentions, they both work from a stabilized and legible view of nomadic pastoralists.


International development industry Planned change Co-management Indicators and targets Idea of Tibet 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillian G. Tan
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Humanities and Social SciencesDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia

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