Carole McGranahan headshot
Professor, Department Chair
(Ph.D. • Michigan • 2001)

HALE 362

Office Hours

Wednesdays 1-2:30 in person (Hale 350)

I am a cultural anthropologist and historian specializing in contemporary Tibet. My research focuses on issues of colonialism and empire, history and memory, power and politics, refugees and citizenship, nationalism, senses of belonging, gender, war, and anthropology as theoretical storytelling. Since 1994, I have conducted research in Tibetan refugee communities in India and Nepal on the history and politics of the guerilla army Chushi Gangdrug, culminating in my book Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Histories of a Forgotten War (Duke University Press, 2010). Thinking of 20th-21st century Tibetan histories and experiences as imperial in a global sense is a key part of my work in relation to the CIA, British India, and the People’s Republic of China. My work on empire beyond Europe can be found in Imperial Formations (2007, co-edited with Ann Stoler and Peter Perdue), and in Ethnographies of U.S. Empire (2018, co-edited with John Collins). Currently, I am completing a book about the Pangdatsang family, Tibet, and British India in the first half of the 20th century, and finishing a decade of research in France, India, Nepal, New York City, Switzerland, and Toronto titled "Refugee Citizenship: Asylum, Refusal, and Political Subjectivity in the Tibetan Diaspora." I also write about ethnography, pedagogy, and am the editor of Writing Anthropology: Essays on Craft and Commitment (2020, Duke University Press.)

I regularly teach classes on Tibet and the Himalayas, feminist anthropology, history and memory, and contemporary social theory.

Selected Publications:

  • 2023. "Theory As Ethics." American Ethnologist, 49: 289-301.
  • 2022. "Being Monica Lewinsky in Kathmandu," Anthropology Now, 14:1-2, 146-148.
  • 2022 "Flash Ethnography: Writing the World, in Brief," Anthropology Now, 14:1-2, 133-135.
  • 2020 Writing Anthropology: Essays on Craft and Commitment. Duke University Press.
  • 2019 “Chinese Settler Colonialism: Empire and Life in the Tibetan Borderlands.” In Stéphane Gros, ed., Frontier Tibet: Patterns of Change in the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp  517-540.
  • 2019 “A Presidential Archive of Lies: Racism, Twitter, and a History of the Present,” International Journal of Communication 13, 2019, pp. 3164-3182.
  • 2018 Ethnographies of U.S. Empire. Co-edited with John Collins. Duke University Press.
  • 2018 “Refusal as Political Practice: Citizenship, Sovereignty, and Tibetan Refugee Status,” American Ethnologist 45(3), 2018, pp. 367-379.
  • 2018 “Ethnography Beyond Method: The Importance of an Ethnographic Sensibility,” SITES: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies 15(1), 2018, pp. 1-10.
  • 2017 “An Anthropology of Lying: Trump and the Political Sociality of Moral Outrage,” special forum on the presidential election, American Ethnologist 44(2), pp. 243-248.
  • 2017 “Imperial but Not Colonial: British India, Archival Truths, and the Case of the ‘Naughty’ Tibetans.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 59(1), pp. 68-95.
  • 2016  “Theorizing Refusal: An Introduction.” Cultural Anthropology 31(3), pp. 319-325.
  • 2016   “Refusal and the Gift of Citizenship.” Cultural Anthropology 31(3), pp. 334-341.
  • 2014  “What Is Ethnography?: Teaching Ethnographic Sensibilities without Fieldwork.” Teaching Anthropology 4, pp. 22-36.
  • 2012 “An Anthropologist in Political Asylum Court, Part I” and “Anthropology and the Truths of Political Asylum, Part II,” Anthropology News, March and April. PDF
  • 2012 “Mao in Tibetan Disguise: History, Ethnographic Theory, and Excess.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2(1): 213-245.  PDF
  • 2012  “Teaching Tibet in a Time of Precarious Emotion,” in Self-Immolation as Protest in Tibet. Special issue of Cultural Anthropology.
  • 2012   Self-Immolation as Protest in TibetSpecial issue of Cultural Anthropology. Co-edited with Ralph Litzinger.
  • 2010  Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War. Duke University Press.
  • 2010  “Narrative Dispossession: Tibet and the Gendered Logics of Historical Possibility,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 52(4), pp. 768-797.  PDF
  • 2007  Imperial Formations. Co-edited with Ann Stoler and Peter Perdue. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.
  • 2007  “Introduction: Refiguring Imperial Terrains,” with Ann Stoler, in Imperial Formations, Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, pp. 3-47.  PDF
  • 2007  “Empire Out-of-Bounds: Tibet in the Era of Decolonization,” in Imperial Formations, Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, pp. 187-227.  PDF
  • 2006  Public Anthropology. Guest Editor of Special Issue of India Review 5(3-4).  PDF
  • 2006  “Tibet’s Cold War: The CIA and the Chushi Gangdrug Resistance, 1956-1974,” Journal of Cold War Studies 8(3), pp. 102-130.  PDF
  • 2005  “In Rapga’s Library: The Texts and Times of a Rebel Tibetan Intellectual,” Les Cahiers d’Extreme-Asie 15, special issue on Tibet, pp. 225-276. PDF
  • 2005  “Truth, Fear, and Lies: Exile Politics and Arrested Histories of the Tibetan Resistance,” Cultural Anthropology 20(4), pp. 570-600.  PDF
  • 2003  “From Simla to Rongbatsa: The British and the “Modern” Boundaries of Tibet,” The Tibet Journal 28(4), pp. 39-60. PDF
  • 2003  “Kashmir and Tibet: Comparing Conflicts, States, and Solutions,” India Review 2(3), pp. 145-180.
  • 2002  “Sa sPang mda’ gNam sPang mda’: Murder, History, and Social Politics in 1920s Lhasa,” in Lawrence Epstein, ed., Khams pa Local Histories: Visions of People, Place, and Authority, Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, pp. 103-126.  PDF
  • 1996  “Miss Tibet, or Tibet Misrepresented?: The Trope of Woman-as-Nation in the Struggle for Tibet,” in Colleen Ballerino Cohen et al., eds., Beauty Queens on the Global Stage: Gender, Contests, and Power, New York: Routledge, 1996, pp. 161-184. PDF

Graduate Studies Information

Research Interests

  • Colonialism and empire
  • History and memory
  • Power and politics
  • Refugees and citizenship
  • Nationalism
  • Senses of belonging
  • Gender
  • War
  • Anthropology as theoretical storytelling

*Professor McGramahan is not accepting graduate students for Fall 2023

More about Professor McGranahan

Thinking of 20th-21st century Tibet histories and experiences as imperial in a global sense in relation to the CIA, British India, and the People’s Republic of China is a key part of McGranahan’s work. Her work on Tibet as an “out-of-bounds” empire can be found in “Imperial Formations”, an SAR volume she co-edited with Ann Stoler and Peter Perdue. Currently, she is working on two new projects: a Wenner-Gren funded project with John Collins on “Ethnographies of U.S. Empire,” and a new solo research project with Tibetans in India, Nepal, New York City, and Toronto titled “Refugee Citizenship: Tibetan Practices of Political Subjectivity in Diaspora.”

View an interview with Professor McGranahan about her new book, “Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Histories of a Forgotten War”


*Professor McGranahan is not currently accepting Ph.D. applicants​ for Fall 2024