Self-Immolations in Tibet

Liberation (Karma Phuntsok)

Since 2009, over 135 Tibetans have self-immolated, set themselves on fire with the intention of dying. Their actions appear to be a combination of things: protest against Chinese policies, a form of religious offering, and communication with the world and, most especially, other Tibetans. Seen as a form of sacrifice rather than suicide, the self-immolations in Tibet signal a new political moment, one which is still unfolding and in which Tibetans are making new demands for their collective future.

Together with Ralph Litzinger (Duke University), I edited a special issue of Cultural Anthropology on the self-immolations in 2012, bringing together a wonderful group of scholars and writers to reflect upon this bold but tragic phenomenon. I have also given talks on the self-immolations at Yale, Harvard, and the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto. 

Artwork: Liberation (Karma Phuntsok)