Participatory Culture Documentation on the Tibetan Plateau


  • Gerald Roche
  • Ban+de mkhar
  • Bkra shis bzang po
  • G.yu lha
  • Snying dkar skyid
  • Tshe ring rnam gyal
  • Zla ba sgrol ma
  • Charles Kevin Stuart


In this article, we examine participatory approaches to culture documentation in the context of work undertaken with Tibetan Plateau communities in China. We describe the diversity of vernacular traditions found within such communities, arguing against the ‘taken-for-granted’ homogeneity of Plateau culture. We discuss the implications of such diversity on documentation practice and introduce participatory approaches drawn from development studies, and suggest that these may provide novel, effective solutions in this context. We also describe the challenges of culture loss on the Plateau, arguing that with the current rate of loss and homogenization, documentation work is now vitally important. To conclude, we examine the pros and cons of participatory approaches in documentation on the Tibetan Plateau in particular, but also more broadly.

Our general approach is informed by the belief that the purpose of culture documentation is to record the greatest possible amount of extant cultural diversity in a manner that enables such diversity to be sustainably maintained in situ. We also argue that it is important to consider the specific, substantive nature of the communities in which culture documentation is undertaken, rather than applying generic concepts of culture and community.


Tibetan PlateauChinaculture documentationparticipatory approachesvernacular traditionsdiversitydocumentation practiceculture losscultural context
  • Year: 2010
  • Volume: 8
  • Page/Article: 140-158
  • DOI: 10.25894/ldd221
  • Published on 31 Jul 2014