Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Rhoda Howard-Hassmann

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


What constitutes genocide is a matter of considerable debate. Stripped to its theoretical core, however, genocide requires the presence of a) perpetrators and victims, and b) the established intent of the former to destroy the latter, by c) such methods that can be reasonably be considered genocidal. As such, isolating and identifying these variables becomes an essential task for anyone wishing to establish that a particular historical event, or set of events, amounts to genocide. The United Nations Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime and Genocide (UNGC) represents the legal standard in this regard, and codified therein are definitional parameters that correspond to the essential features of genocide noted above. Despite its status as the authority on genocide, the legal yardstick by which all mass atrocities are measured, I contend that within the Convention’s limited framework, there exists little opportunity for the case of Tibet to be judged according to meaningful criteria. Indeed, considering the consubstantiality of religion and politics in pre-Communist Tibet, and the conceptual proximity between faith and “nation” reported among Tibetans in exile, Tibetans, as a self-identified ethnoreligious population, do not fit neatly into the terms of the Convention. This study, which is intended to provide conceptual clarity rather than concrete conclusions, considers a) alternative theories of genocide, including those held by Tibetans themselves, as well as b) the reported experiences of exiled Tibetans, as a means by which to question existing knowledge vis-à-vis the Tibetan experience of Chinese rule. Underwriting this research are broader questions regarding what constitutes genocide.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season