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Robert Barnett is an affiliate of the Lau China Institute. He works on nationality issues in China, focusing on modern history, politics and culture in Tibet. His writing includes studies of Tibetan politics, cinema, television, religious regulations, social management, women politicians and contemporary exorcism rituals.

He founded the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia University in New York, which he directed for 18 years. He has also taught at Princeton, INALCO (Paris), and IACER (Kathmandu), and for ten years ran an independent research project, Tibet Information Network, in London.

His books and edited volumes include Conflicted Memories with Benno Weiner and Françoise Robin (Brill, 2019); Tibetan Modernities: Notes from the Field, with Ronald Schwartz (Brill, 2008); and Lhasa: Streets with Memories (Columbia, 2006).  He runs a number of training programs in Tibet on ecotourism, language-teaching skills, and small business development.

He is a frequent commentator on Tibet and nationality issues in China for the BBC, CNN, NPR, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and other media.