“Tibetan Mastiff Fever”:The Dog Crisis in the Zone of Shangrilazation

Authors: Yueming Chen*,
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Anthropocene, Cultural Ecology
Keywords: Exoticization, indigenous lives, ethnographic field research
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Astor Ballroom II, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Tibetan mastiff is a large breed that Tibetan and Mongolian pastoralists use to protect their sheep and yaks from predators. I had never seen a Tibetan mastiff until I was bitten in Yushu Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province, China. In part because of this experience, I soon became interested in the “Tibetan mastiff fever” (ZangAo Re 藏獒热) that swept China and had profound socioecological effects in the Tibetan Cultural Regions starting around 2006. I argue that Tibetan Mastiff Fever is a form of “Shangrilazation.” As Coggins and Yeh (2014; 25) note, Shangrilazation is “...material transformation and immaterial meaning-making [that] is never hegemonic or complete but always in the process of formation, as a particular civilizing project of the Great Western Development Strategy in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands.” In this paper, I examine “Tibetan Mastiff fever” as part of the work of exoticization and marketing of Tibetan landscapes and indigenous lives (both human and non-human) therein—a critical form of national territorial annexation. “Tibetan mastiff Fever” is both an outcome of Shangrilazation and one of its vital components. I analyze political discourse on the Mastiff and China’s national identity in the face of precarious global markets, and why Han Chinese were responsible for the mystification and commodification of an ancient Tibetan breed. I also show how canine commodity fetishism led to a crisis of over-accumulation that may lead to serious ecological outcomes, including the regional extinction of snow leopards (Pantherauncia)

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