May 04, 2009

Case Western Reserve University’s Renowned Expert on Tibet Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Melvyn C. Goldstein was the first anthropologist in the Western world to be permitted to conduct fieldwork in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China

Widely renowned as the world’s foremost expert on Tibet, Melvyn C. Goldstein, the John Reynolds Harkness Professor of Anthropology at Case Western Reserve University, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-director of the Center for Research on Tibet and director of the Tibet Oral History and Archive Project, Goldstein is a social anthropologist specializing in Tibetan society, history and contemporary politics. He joins a dozen current and former faculty and trustees of Case Western Reserve who are members of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering or Institute of Medicine.

Goldstein is a pioneer in unraveling the social-economic motives behind one of the world's more unusual forms of marriage and family -- Tibetan fraternal polyandry, where two, three, four or more brothers together share a wife. Among his articles on polyandry is a classic that is used in many of the readers in introductory courses in anthropology.

Goldstein has conducted research in Tibet (Tibet Autonomous Region of China) on a range of topics including the adaptation of nomadic pastoralists in Tibet, the impact of decollectivization on rural Tibet, family planning and fertility in Tibet and the impact of modernization on the elderly in the Third World. Along with Case colleagues Cynthia Beall and Charlotte Ikels, he founded the Journal Cross-Cultural Gerontolgy and edited it for a decade.

He has also undertaken a major history of modern Tibet project and a massive oral history of Tibet project. Goldstein's award-wining volume one of the history of modern Tibet project is a 900-page tome that covers the period 1913-1951, and his recent volume two (600 pages)features the period from 1951-1955. He is currently working on volume three, which will bring the history series up to the revolt in Tibet in 1959 and the flight of the Dalai Lama to exile. He also has worked in India, with Tibetan refugees in Mysore; northwest Nepal, with a Tibetan border community in Limi; western Mongolia, with a nomadic pastoral community in Hovd province; and inland China, with Han Chinese on modernization and the elderly.

Goldstein’s Tibetan oral history project is the culmination of nearly a decade of field research and contains hundreds of interviews -- with rural and urban Tibetans, Buddhist monks and political figures, including the Dalai Lama -- that together total over 30,000 pages of English transcripts. It is becoming part of the permanent collection of the Library of Congress, which will maintain it as an on-line archive available to all throughout the world in perpetuity. This archive is an essential resource that is preserving the voices of everyday Tibetans beginning in the traditional era, through the 1959 uprising, the new socialist society and finally the Cultural Revolution.

In the mid-1980s, Goldstein and fellow Case Western Reserve anthropologist Cynthia Beall, who studies high altitude adaptation and also is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, were the first investigators to receive permission from China to do field work in Tibet through the National Science Academy’s Committee for Scholarly Communications with the People’s Republic of China. Goldstein and Beall forged an affiliation between Case Western Reserve’s Center for Research on Tibet and the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences (TASS) to allow for research and collaborate training of Tibetan researchers from TASS though the anthropology department of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences. Eight Tibetans from Lhasa came to Case Western Reserve, two receiving master's degrees in anthropology and one a doctorate. All but one returned to help develop research and training in Tibet.

In addition to a new book entitled On the Cultural Revolution in Tibet: The Nyemo Incident of 1969 (University of California Press) and his 2007 book, A History of Tibet, Volume 2: The Calm Before the Storm (also University of California Press), Goldstein has published life histories of two important Tibetans: A Tibetan Revolutionary, (University of California Press) and The Struggle for Modern Tibet (Sharpe Publishers), as well as the most widely used analysis of the political conflict between Tibet and China, The Snow Lion and the Dragon (University of California Press). His work also encompasses Tibetan linguistics, and he has edited the English-Tibetan and Tibetan-Englisn dictionaries of Modern Tibet, as well as grammars and readers. He also has written articles for National Geographic and Natural History magazines and about 100 articles in journals and edited volumes.

Goldstein currently is the principal investigator of a National Science Foundation (NSF) study examining modernization and changing patterns of intergenerational relations in rural Tibet and a National Endowment for Humanities Project preparing the oral history archive for publication on-line. In addition to the NSF, his work has been extensively supported by the National Endowment of the Humanities, the National Institute of Health (the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and National Institute on Aging), the National Geographic Society and the Henry Luce Foundation.

Posted by: Paula Baughn, May 4, 2009 02:56 PM | News Topics: College of Arts and Sciences, Faculty, Provost Initiatives, news

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