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Despite the upheavals of collectivisation and reform, the nomadic pastoralists of Amdo, in the north-eastern part of the Tibetan plateau, maintain that they substantially retain historic forms of tribal organisation. The governmental structures of the modern Chinese state have replaced the hereditary rulers, kings and monastic leaders who formerly exercised leadership over the nomads' tribes. However, ideologies of revenge and practices of feuding still characterise relations between tribal groups. Moreover, the nomads continue to turn to senior Buddhist lamas as mediators, despite the criminal sanctions imposed by the police. It is suggested that these elements represent a continuity in tribal forms within the framework of control now exercised by the nation state. An uneasy relationship between tribes and state has long characterised this region and continues to do so in the modern world.

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Published In

Nomadic Peoples
Volume 9Number 1-02January 2005
Pages: 83 - 102


Published in print: January 2005
Published online: 1 September 2023


  1. Buddhism
  2. China
  3. government
  4. nomads
  5. Tibet
  6. tribes



Fernanda Pirie [email protected]
Obtained her doctorate in anthropology from Oxford University, with a thesis on conflict resolution in Ladakh, which was followed by a three-year research position at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. She is currently a research fellow at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, Oxford University. Email: [email protected]

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