Harmandeep Gill - new PhD at the department of Anthropology

Harmandeep Gill joins CAS in September with the project: 'Ageing in Exile. Experience of Good Old Age among Elderly Tibetans in India and Nepal'

16.08.2017 | Camilla Dimke

I am 26 years old. I am born in India, but have been living in Norway for the past 17 years. I completed my master's in social anthropology at the University of Oslo. My ethnographic area is Tibet and I did my master's thesis on the Tibetan self-immolations (the act of setting oneself ablaze). Although Tibet is my ethnographic area, I have never been to or done fieldwork in Tibet. So far I have been based in exile, something I will continue with in my PhD also. 

 My PhD project is for now titled: 'Ageing in Exile. Experience of Good Old Age among Elderly Tibetans in India and Nepal'. It is part of the 'Ageing as Human Condition: Radical Uncertainty and the Search for a Good (Old) Life' project. 

 My project concerns ageing and attitudes towards death and rebirth among elderly Tibetans in exile. Elderly Tibetans lead lives often characterized by uncertainty, partly due to their status as ‘refugees’ but particularly due to the large on-migration in recent years of exile-Tibetan youth to Western nations. This has left many elderly alone in the last phase of their lives. As a result, Tibetan old age homes have become the last resort for many. Spending the last phase of life in an old age home or dying alone without the presence of children and close kin is regarded as something unwanted and even shameful among Tibetans. In my project, I wish to look into how this current situation affects the elderly Tibetans. At stake is not only their wellbeing in the last phase of their lives, but also, in the context of their Buddhist faith, their next life.

I plan to carry out my fieldwork at an old age home in Dharamsala, India, which is regarded as the Tibetan capitol in exile. While carrying out my main fieldwork in Dharamsala, I also hope to make a shorter stay in another Tibetan settlement in either India or Nepal.