Karma Palzom, Tibetan American historian, received Fulbright award to India

Karma Palzom, a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at UW-Madison, has received the Fulbright-Nehru Research Award to conduct historical research of Tibetan diaspora. For the 2018-2019 academic year, she will be in India conducting research for her dissertation project, “The Dalai Lama is Tibet: Deterritorializing Tibetan Nationhood, Citizenship, and Activism, Post-1959.”

Her dissertation examines the transformations in the Tibetan Freedom Movement, particularly how differing political agendas among Tibetan exile organizations in the diaspora, such as advocating for total independence or autonomy, reveal the complexities of what a “free Tibet” means. In the Tibetan resettlement camps of India, she will be interviewing activists from the Tibetan Youth Congress, the oldest and largest organization that has continually pushed for Tibetan independence from Chinese colonial rule of Tibet.

As a former PEOPLE  and Ronald E. McNair scholar, Karma graduated from UW-Madison with double majors in History and History of Science in 2014. During her undergraduate study, she conducted research on Tibetan immigrants within Madison community under the guidance of Professor Cindy I-Fen Cheng.  She examined how Tibetan Americans, unlike most immigrants from East Asia, perceived the preservation of their cultural heritage as essential to their success of Tibetan independence movement.

Born in a refugee resettlement camp in Pokhara, Nepal, Karma moved to Madison when she was six years old through the Tibetan-U.S. Resettlement Project. “My plan to learn the history of Tibetans in the U.S. stems from my experience as an immigrant and my desire to understand the connections between immigrations and diasporic communities,” she says. Her immigration experience motived her to continue her study about history of migration, nationalism, decolonization and Asian American history.

Besides her work as a graduate teaching assistant for Asian American history courses, Karma has continued to educate the campus and Madison community about Tibetan culture, Tibetan Independence Movement, and refugee experiences. She hopes that one day she can gain fluency in Mandarin Chinese to broaden her audience. With Fulbright fellowship, she will continue her study on Tibetan diaspora and regain fluency in the Tibetan language.

Congratulations to Karma for her well-deserved achievement!