Tsering Shakya

Associate Professor

Relevant Degree Programs


Postdoctoral Fellows

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2020)
Social Inequality and Resource Management: Gender, Caste and Class in the Rural Himalayas (2015)

The management of irrigation water and other resources, as practiced by traditional farming communities in developing countries, is often presented as a model of an equitable system – especially when compared to systems managed by states. This study demonstrates that the resource management practices in two Himalayan farming communities are, in fact, inequitable in terms of local gender, caste and class roles. This thesis examines inequalities in the social organization of irrigation systems in two villages in Spiti Valley in India’s Himachal Pradesh state. Its key finding is that the social organization of irrigation management, particularly in terms of farmers’ gender, class and caste backgrounds, is best understood as part of a broader division of labor for farming and related resources (such as for the management of fodder, dung and firewood), which are all embedded in the local socio-economic structure. This finding, which is based on participatory observation and interviews with farmers, as well as an analysis of historical and legal documents, underlines the importance of studying management of different resource sectors relationally rather than compartmentally. In particular, this study identifies key functional linkages between the social organization of farming and different resource sectors and develops theoretical approaches to the study of resource management in rural communities.

View record

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
ISIS Threat to India: How should India respond? (2017)

This thesis traces the evolution of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its present geopolitical extent and identifies the major trends and strategic directions. It examines the official pronouncements about its intentions regarding India and analyses the threat and proposes a policy prescription. Today’s terrorist organizations, including ISIS, publish online magazines and videos stating their policies, strategies and, tactics. These original voices were studied to understand them. The US invasion of Iraq (2003) and the subsequent failure in creating a “democratic government” acceptable to the powerful Sunni minority led to strife and sectarian violence. Radical Islamists and leftover elements of Saddam Hussain’s military got together and created large scale insurgency eventually leading to the declaration of a “Caliphate” calling out to all the Muslims in the world to accept it and join the effort to extend it. Less than 30 Indians as compared to a total of 25,000 are known to have migrated to ISIS area. Even with all its aberrations, India’s resilience as a syncretic and inclusive society renders hijrat (migration) an unattractive option. But coming together of radicalized youth into a small terror modules and striking nearer home is a real and probable threat. To protect itself, India should follow policies that integrate its Muslim community into the social mainstream. To prevent its people from getting radicalized through exposure to ISIS propaganda, the counter radicalization effort needs to be strengthened. The few persons who are known to have been radicalized but have not undertaken any kind of violence could be considered for softer deradicalization methods. By involving their family, friends and, community it is possible to bring these people back into normal domestic life. Attacks can still happen and the capability to deal with them must be enhanced by creating interdiction capabilities at the state and district levels. Finally, international terror requires measures across countries for which mechanisms for international cooperation must be created so that information, intelligence and, evidence flow seamlessly.

View record

Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese Communist Party Authority: The Fundamental Problem of Dalai Lama Leadership (2016)

Tibet has been under the administrative control of the People’s Republic of China since 1950. The Seventeen-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, signed in 1951, promised autonomy to Tibetans, as well as the freedom to practice their religion, Tibetan Buddhism. In practice, however, the PRC has not allowed this autonomy or freedom of religion to Tibetans within its borders. The identity of the Tibetan people is largely based on their strong religiosity, manifested in their reverence of their leadership institutions: the Dalai Lama and to a lesser extent, the Panchen Lama. As the PRC government has sought to suppress religion and control religious practices, it has exerted a stricter level of control over the religions perceived as ‘foreign,’ of which Tibetan Buddhism is one. This strict control of ‘foreign’ religions (specifically their leadership institutions) has manifested in the defamation and coercive manipulation of the Dalai and Panchen Lama institutions, in order for the Chinese Communist Party to maintain its control over Tibet. This thesis asks why the CCP perceives the control of these leadership institutions as necessary for achieving its broader policy goals. Through an in-depth review and analysis of relevant literature, this thesis will argue that the strong religiosity of Tibetans and the corresponding politico-religious power wielded by the Dalai and Panchen Lama leadership institutions are perceived as threats by the CCP. The power of Tibetan Buddhism and its leadership institution, as well as the identity they instill in Tibetans, threatens not only the CCP’s control over the resource-rich region, but also its legitimacy as the unique governing power over a secular, unified China. To the Chinese government in Beijing, allowing the Dalai and Panchen Lamas the freedom to return to Tibet, whether in body or just through the worship of Tibetan Buddhists, would be tantamount to losing its control over the entire region.

View record

A Perspective on the Naxalite Insurgency in Jharkhand and Bihar: Going Beyond the Grievance Argument (2015)

This thesis examines a form of left wing extremism called the Naxalite, or Maoist insurgency in the Eastern Indian states of Jharkhand and Bihar. Deemed the biggest internal security threat to India by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2004, this low level insurgency has been plaguing the country for over fifty years. To date, the government of India has used a two pronged security and development approach to combat the problem, but it still remains a serious issue. This thesis examines why the Naxalite movement has essentially been restricted to the geographic area referred to as the “Red Corridor”, and also examines why the insurgency has not yet been resolved. A majority of the studies approaches this issue as either a law and order problem or a development problem; however, this thesis scrutinizes the nature and motives of the insurgents themselves. The purpose of this study was to suggest the idea that the insurgents responsible for the violence of the Naxalite insurgency are more often motivated by greed of opportunity and economic gain, rather than genuine grievances. This is not to say that genuine grievances do not exist in this insurgency, rather it is merely to say that it is not a fuelling factor for violence. Lastly, this thesis examines the lack of monitoring and gaps in policy implementation for counterinsurgency, and finds that it is the lack of cognizant monitoring, rather than lack of policy, which has contributed to lack of the resolution of the conflict.

View record

Broken barrier : mobility, political unionism and economic informality in India (2011)

Economic informality is often treated as defining a segregated, leeching, anti-systemic and apolitical sphere of an economic system. While an estimate 2.8 times the combined total populations of Canada and the United States comprise the informal labour population of India, the visibility of the workers involved is largely obstructed by a combination of natural and forced anonymity. Political unionism is shown as an imperfect instrument to respond to the varied interests of union members in addition to falling under criticism as a privileged process for an elitist, minority section of the working class in India. One of two labour unions recognized as clearly outside political associations is the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), through which the voice, struggle and intense productivity of workers dubbed part of the informal economic sphere has been brought to the attention of domestic and international policy initiatives. In an analysis of studies engaging with the organized bidi workers of Gujarat and the history of political unionism in India, we see that the barrier between formal and informal is quite firmly an inaccurate product of our analysis. While individual agency in India should be supported and targeted for improvement by international labour laws, conventions and organizations, there needs to be a realization that protection from exploitation is necessary yet blind incorporation of the informal into the formal is not the logical conclusion for sustainable development practices.

View record

Network power: The carrefour event, civil society and the lack of democratic development in China (2011)

The Chinese Communist Party regularly instructs owners and purveyors of mass media in China on topics it views as sensitive. In a recent general notice, media were notified that they were not to use the term „civil society‟ as it was unacceptable for people to stand in opposition to the government. At the same time American sociologists, such as Yang Guobin, have identified the development of civil society movements as a consequence of the wide-spread use of information communication technology (ICT) in China. The identified civil society is argued to be part of a teleological socio-political movement towards democracy as it represents plurality in public political discourse and rights defense. By documenting the general content and implications of the high public presence during the 2008 patriotic debate over the boycott of Carrefour the social role of civil society in China will be brought into question. This argument adds to the current debate over Internet enabled civil society in China by rejecting the claim that the Internet has helped to establish new practices; the Internet merely eases and speeds up what people do in daily life. Rather than investigating a single association (of boycotters) and its one-on-one relationship with the state, this research focuses on the public environment that enables citizen mobilizations to occur, inter-public relations during the formation of new associations (such as the boycotters), and the result of civil society goal seeking when it runs counter to the government‟s publicity. The presented evidence indicates that the political importance of civil society practice in China is not a social trajectory towards the establishment of democratic practices, but rather a more general shift in the struggle between empowered groups in the public and the state to dictate social norms.

View record


If this is your researcher profile you can log in to the Faculty & Staff portal to update your details and provide recruitment preferences.


Follow these steps to apply to UBC Graduate School!