Meg McLagan Collection : The Tibet Movement in Exile, 1989-2003

Biographical Note


Dr. Meg McLagan (a.k.a. Margaret McLagan) is a filmmaker and cultural anthropologist. She is a recipient of grants and fellowships from the Sundance Institute, MacDowell Colony, National Endowment for the Humanities, Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College, Mellon Foundation, School of American Research, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, among others.                                      

McLagan co-directed the feature documentary, Lioness, which won the Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award at Full Frame Film Festival and aired nationally on the PBS series Independent Lens in 2008. Following its release, Lioness played a role in Congressional passage of the Women Veterans healthcare bill, signed into law in 2010, as well as in the Pentagon's decision to open combat jobs to women. Her collaborative short, Air Drifts, produced with NASA's Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, premiered at the 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale.

McLagan’s previous film work includes Tibet in Exile, a film about the resettlement of Tibetan refugee children in north India, which was broadcast on public television and screened at festivals and museums in the U.S. and Europe, and Positive Proof Church, a 16 mm short. She began her film career working as a producer on Paris is Burning (1991), one of the most acclaimed examples of 1990s New Queer Cinema.

McLagan's intellectual work examines the relationship between forms of politics and visual culture. She has published on human rights, the Tibet Movement, testimony and architectures of activism, and is the co-editor of Sensible Politics: The Visual Culture of Nongovernmental Activism, published by Zone Books in 2012. McLagan has a B.A. in English from Yale University and a doctorate in anthropology from New York University where she wrote her dissertation, Mobilizing for Tibet: Transnational politics and diaspora culture in the post-cold war era. She teaches in the Film Studies Program at Barnard College, Columbia University.


In 2012, Dr. McLagan donated her research files and other materials to the C.V. Starr East Asian Library as archival documentation of the media representation, outreach and mobilization efforts of what is typically dubbed the "Tibet Movement" among Tibetans in exile and supporters.


Photo credit: Brian Larkin

Tibet in Exile Documentary Cover

Archival and Monograph Holdings

The Meg McLagan Collection presents a well-curated trove of archival documentation of the creation and growth of the "Tibet Movement" among Tibetans in exile and supporters. In particular, the files contain materials on Tibetan diasporic identity, transcultural solidarity organizations in the U.S., Switzerland, and India, and political and cultural activism between 1991 and 1993, including the "International Year of Tibet" campaign. Earlier materials include research and footage from the documentary film, "Tibet in Exile," which followed the stories of nearly a dozen young Tibetan children who escaped from Tibet in 1990 in search of a new life in Dharamsala, India. Interviews and other confidential materials are embargoed until 2038.  Books which were not yet held by Columbia University have been incorporated into the C.V. Starr East Asian general collections and can be located in the online catalog, CLIO.

Monographs received with the collection are shelved in our regular stacks for circulation. They can be located by searching in CLIO for the phrase "Forms part of the Meg McLagan Papers."

Dalai Lama on the cover of Vogue Magazine

Dalai Lama on the cover of Vogue Magazine, France, 1992-93

Tibetan-Related Works by Meg McLagan


Sensible Politics: The Visual Culture of Nongovernmental Activism.New York: Zone Books, 2012.Edited by Meg McLagan and Yates McKee.


Mobilizing for Tibet: Transnational politics and diaspora culture in the post-cold war era. Dissertation, New York University, 1996. Available at Columbia University Academic Commons:


“Spectacles of Difference:Cultural Activism and the Mass Mediation of Tibet.” In Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain, ed. by Faye Ginsburg et. al, University of California Press, 2002, pp. 90-111.

“The Tibetan Diaspora.” In South Asian Folklore: An Encyclopedia, ed. by Margaret Mills and Peter Claus, New York: Routledge. 2002.                                                                                                                     

“The Shadow Circus.”American Anthropologist, Vol. 103, No. 4 (Dec., 2001), pp. 1154-1156.

“Mystical Visions in Manhattan: Deploying Culture in the Year of Tibet, in Tibetan Culture in the Diaspora.”Proceedings of the 7th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Vol. 4, ed. by Frank Korom, Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences, 1997.

“Computing for Tibet: Virtual Politics in the Post-Cold War Era.” In Connected: Engagements with media, ed. by George Marcus, The University of Chicago Press, 1996, pp. 159-194.

Films and Videos:

Tibet in Exile. Co-director and camera.1991.30 min.

Tibetan community video documentation projects.1989-1991.

  • Interview and Tantric initiations of Sakya Trizin, Head of Sakya Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, New York City, Commissioned by Vikramasila Foundation

  • Dalai Lama’s visit to New York City, Commissioned by the Crum Foundation

  • Community celebration of Nobel Peace Prize Award to Dalai Lama in New York City

  • Kalachakra Initiation given by the Dalai Lama, Los Angeles

  • Annual March 10th demonstration for Tibet outside the United Nations, New York City

For a more complete bibliography of essays and other works by Meg McLagan, please see

Sakya enlarged

Sakya Trizin at United Nations 

Derby and Tibet

Free Derry and Tibet, 66th Street, New York City 

Presentation of petitions to the United Nations, 1991


For more information about the Meg McLagan Papers and library access, please contact Dr. Lauran Hartley, Tibetan Studies Librarian, C.V. Starr East Asian Library at

Permission to reproduce any item from the Meg McLagan Papers must be obtained from the copyright holder.