Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War

In This Review

Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War
by Carole McGranahan
Duke University Press Books, 2010
328 pp. $23.95
Purchase

McGranahan has patiently interviewed elderly survivors of the Tibetan guerilla resistance to Chinese rule, which lasted from 1956 to 1974. One of them told her, “Everything is over now. Now we can tell the secrets.” The secrets concern the beginnings of the resistance in the region called Kham, an ethnically Tibetan area now in Sichuan; the Kham fighters’ escort of the Dalai Lama to exile in India in 1959; the rebels’ hit-and-run war against the Chinese army; internal rivalries among their leadership, which included the Dalai Lama’s brother Gyalo Thondup; the “flattening” of Kham identity into a broader Tibetan identity; and the failure of the Tibetan government in exile to acknowledge the role of violence in the resistance. CIA support for the guerillas is a known story, to which the old soldiers add some colorful details. Less well known are the roles of the Indian, Nepali, and (to a small degree) Taiwanese governments in supporting the small force. As an anthropologist, McGranahan attends chiefly to the politics of memory and forgetting, the formation of identity, and the construction of gender, leaving the military and political histories of the forgotten war, as she says, a work in progress.