Volume 25, 2018
Burning for a Cause: Self-immolations, Human Security, and the Violence of Nonviolence in Tibet
American Theological Library Association
In Tibetan areas of the People’s Republic of China, more than 150 Tibetans have immolated themselves in the past decade to protest what they perceive as limited religious, cultural, and civil rights. Revered as national heroes in exile and compassionate human rights fighters among Euro-American audiences, Tibetan self-immolators are considered mere terrorists in China. This article brings studies in terrorism into its analysis of the Tibetan self-immolation crisis, examining the ways in which both are heightened by modern communication technology and media. Rejecting any interpretation that aligns self-immolation with suicide terrorism, I argue that although Tibetan self-immolators uphold Buddhist scriptural principles of bodhisattvic self-sacrifice, their martyrdom is nevertheless a form of violence with far ranging causes, both political and religious.