Melvyn Goldstein

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Melvyn C. Goldstein
Born8 February 1938
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materUniversity of Washington
University of Michigan
Known forTibetology
AwardsMember of the National Academy of Sciences (2009)
Joseph Levenson Book Prize Honorable Mention (1989)
Scientific career
InstitutionsCase Western Reserve University

Melvyn C. Goldstein (born February 8, 1938) is an American social anthropologist and Tibet scholar. His research focuses on Tibetan society, history and contemporary politics, population studies, polyandry, studies in cultural and development ecology, economic change and cross-cultural gerontology.

Education and career[edit]

Goldstein was born in New York City on February 8, 1938.[1] Goldstein obtained a BA with a major in history in 1959, and an MA in history in 1960 from the University of Michigan. He pursued his research in anthropology at the University of Washington and was awarded a PhD in 1968.[1] In 1968, he joined the faculty of the Department of Anthropology at Case Western Reserve University as an Assistant Professor.[1] He became an Associate Professor in 1974 and full Professor in 1978.[1] From 1975 to 2002 he was the Chairman of the Department of Anthropology.[1] Between 1987 and 1991 he was the Director of the Center for Research on Tibet, and is still the Co-Director. From 1991 he has been the Professor (on secondary appointment) of the International Health, School of Medicine.[1] He was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (Section 51, Anthropology) in 2009.[1][2]


Goldstein has conducted research in different parts of Tibet[3] (mainly in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China) on a range of topics including nomadic pastoralism, the impact of reforms on rural Tibet, family planning and fertility, modern Tibetan history, and socio-economic change. He has also conducted research in India (with Tibetan refugees in Bylakuppe), in northwest Nepal (with a Tibetan border community in Limi), in western Mongolia (with a nomadic pastoral community in Khovd Province) and in inland China (with Han Chinese on modernization and the elderly).[1]

Goldstein and Cynthia Beall were the first Western anthropologists to conduct extensive field research in Tibet when they stayed for 16 months between June 1986 and June 1988.[4] Part of their research from that trip included 10 months living with a community of Tibetan nomads, which was published in the book Nomads of Western Tibet: The Survival of a Way of Life and described by Per Kvaerne as "the first anthropological survey of a community in present-day Tibet".[4]

His later projects include: an oral history of Tibet, Volume Three (1955–57) of his four-volume History of Modern Tibet series, and a longitudinal study of the impact of China's reform policies on rural Tibet (nomads and farmers). He completed an NSF study investigating modernization and changing patterns of intergenerational relations in rural Tibet from 2005 to 2007.[1]


Goldstein's History of Modern Tibet series was described as "decades of groundbreaking scholarship on the society and history of Central Tibet" by historian Benno Weiner.[5] His work portrays pre-1950 Tibet as "de facto independent" as well as a feudal theocracy.[6] The first volume in the series, A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State, was awarded Honorable Mention for the Joseph Levenson Book Prize in 1989 by the Association for Asian Studies.[1] The second volume was described by historian A. Tom Grunfeld as "an extraordinarily detailed and nuanced history".[7]

Colin Mackerras labeled Goldstein as "well known in the field of Tibetan studies" and described his book On the Cultural Revolution in Tibet: The Nyemo Incident of 1969 with Ben Jiao and Tanzen Lhundrup an "extraordinary book" and "excellent history".[8]

Honours and recognition[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Goldstein married the daughter of the Tibetan scholar-official-aristocrat, Surkhang Wangchen Gelek.[10]

Goldstein collects bonsai trees.[11]

Selected publications[edit]


  • A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 1: 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State. University of California Press. 1989, ISBN 0-520-07590-0
  • The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet and the Dalai Lama, University of California Press, 1997.
  • (with William Siebenschuh, and Tashi Tsering), The Struggle for Modern Tibet: The Autobiography of Tashi Tsering, Armonk, NY: M.E.Sharpe, Inc. 1997.
  • Chinese Edition of The Struggle for a Modern Tibet: the Life of Tashi Tsering, Mirror Books, Carle Place, NY., 2000.
  • A New Tibetan English Dictionary of Modern Tibetan, University of California Press, Pp. 1200, 2001.
  • (with Dawei Sherap, William Siebenschuh), A Tibetan Revolutionary. The Political Life of Bapa Phüntso Wangye, University of California Press, 2004.
  • A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 2: The Calm Before the Storm: 1951-1955, University of California Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-520-24941-7.
  • (with Ben Jiao, Tanzen Lhundrup), On the Cultural Revolution in Tibet: The Nyemo Incident of 1969, University of California Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-520-25682-8.
  • A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 3: The Storm Clouds Descend, 1955–1957, University of California Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0-520-27651-2.
  • A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 4: In the Eye of the Storm, 1957-1959, University of California Press, 2019, ISBN 978-0520278554.

Journal articles[edit]

  • "Stratification, Polyandry and Family Structure in Tibet," in Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 27, No. 1: 64-74, 1971.
  • "Serfdom and Mobility: An Examination of the Institution of "Human Lease" in Traditional Tibetan Society," in The Journal of Asian Studies, May 1971, vol. 30, issue 3, pp. 521-534.
  • "Fraternal Polyandry and Fertility in a High Himalayan Valley in Northwest Nepal," in Human Ecology, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 223–233, 1976.
  • "Pahari and Tibetan Polyandry Revisited," in Ethnology, 17(3): 325-347, 1978.
  • (with P. Tsarong), "Tibetan Buddhist Monasticism: Social, Psychological and Cultural Implications," in The Tibet Journal, 10(1): 14-31, 1985.
  • "Re-examining Choice, Dependency and Command in the Tibetan Social System. "Tax Appendages" and Other Landless Serfs," in The Tibet Journal, vol. XI, No 4, 1986, pp. 79-112.
  • "When Brothers Share a Wife," in Natural History, March, 1987.
  • "On the Nature of Tibetan Peasantry," in The Tibet Journal, vol. XIII, No 1, 1988, pp. 61-65.
  • "Freedom, Servitude and the "Servant Serf" Nyima," in The Tibet Journal, vol. XIV, No 2, 1989, pp. 56-60.
  • (with Cynthia M. Beall), "China's Birth Control Policy in the Tibet Autonomous Region," in Asian Survey, vol. 31, No 3, 1991, pp. 286-303.
  • "The Dalai Lama's Dilemma," in Foreign Affairs, vol. 77, No. 1, January/February 1998.
  • (with Ben Jiao, Cynthia M. Beall & Phuntso Tsering), "Fertility & Family Planning in Rural Tibet," in The China Journal, Issue 1, 2002.
  • (with G. Childs, Phujung Wangdui), "Beijing's 'People First' development initiative for the Tibet Autonomous Region's rural sector — a case study from the Shigatse area," in The China Journal, 2010, Vol. 63, pp. 59–78.
  • (with Cynthia M. Beall), "Changing patterns of Tibetan nomadic pastoralism," In Human Biology of Pastoral Populations, Leonard and Crawford (eds.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 131–150.

Book chapters[edit]

  • "Adjudication and Partition in the Tibetan Stem Family," in D. Buxbaum (ed.), Chinese Family Law and Social Change, University of Washington Press, 1978.
  • "The Revival of Monastic Life in Drepung Monastery," in Goldstein and Kapstein (eds.), Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival & Cultural Identity, pp. 16–52, 1998a.
  • "Introduction," in Goldstein and Kapstein (eds.), Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival & Cultural Identity, pp. 1–15, 1998b.
  • (with Cynthia M. Beall), "Changing patterns of Tibetan nomadic pastoralism," in Human Biology of Pastoral Populations, Leonard and Crawford (eds.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 131–150.
  • "Tibetan Buddhism and Mass Monasticism," in Des moines et des moniales dans le monde. La vie monastique dans le miroir de la parenté (ss la dir. de Adeline Herrou et Gisele Krauskopff), Presses universitaires de Toulouse-le Mirail, 2010.

Special Report[edit]


  • (with Matthew Kapstein (eds.)), Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival and Cultural Identity, University of California Press, 1998.




  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m CWRU (7 January 2013). "Curriculum vitae of Melvyn C. Goldstein (Revised 1-7-2013)" (PDF). Case Western Reserve University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Melvyn Goldstein". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  3. ^ Powers 2004, pg. 21
  4. ^ a b Kvaerne, Per (1991). "Nomads of Western Tibet: The Survival of a Way of Life by Melvyn C. Goldstein, Cynthia Beall (Review)". The Tibet Journal. 16 (3): 83–86.
  5. ^ Weiner, Benno (2020). "A History of Modern Tibet, vol. 4, 1957–1959: In the Eye of the Storm by Melvyn C. Goldstein (review)". Twentieth-century China. Johns Hopkins University Press. 45 (3): E-16. doi:10.1353/tcc.2020.0032. ISSN 1521-5385. S2CID 242571589.
  6. ^ John Powers, History as Propaganda, 2004
  7. ^ Grunfeld, A. Tom (2008). "Reviewed Works: A Hisory of Modern Tibet, Volume 2. The Calm Before the Storm 1951—1955 by Melvyn C. Goldstein; Tibet and Nationalistic China's Frontier: Intrigues and Ethnopolitics, 1928—1949 by Hsiao-ting Lin". China Review International. 15 (3): 325–329. doi:10.1353/cri.0.0195.
  8. ^ Mackerras, Colin (2009). "Book Review: Melvyn C. GOLDSTEIN, Ben JIAO, and Tanzen LHUNDRUP, On the Cultural Revolution in Tibet: The Nyemo Incident of 1969. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 2009. xvi + 236 pp., with index, maps, images, references, glossary, notes, and appendices. ISBN: 978-0-520-25682-8 (hc). Price: £14.95". China Information. 23 (3). doi:10.1177/0920203X090230030604.
  9. ^ The Daily (14 May 2012). "2012 Hovorka Prize goes to world expert on Tibet—Melvyn Goldstein". Case Western Reserve University. Archived from the original on 22 January 2016. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  10. ^ My China eye: memoirs of a Jew and a journalist, by Israel Epstein, p 277
  11. ^ "The gift of bonsai: An exhibition of living art". 25 May 2016.


  • Powers, John (2004). History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-517426-7.

External links[edit]