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British colonial and military officials who went inside Tibet often wrote their accounts as scientific exploration or as exciting adventure (see Bailey 1957; Forman 1936) or as "everyday" observation (Gordon 1876, v). Behind their innocent-sounding descriptions of travel-for example, "[a] narrative of a plant hunter's adventures and discoveries" (Ward 1934)-lay the violence of imperialism. Though their gaze might be considered by Europeans as that of the adventurer or romantic, its effect on the natives was the same as that of some steely-eyed militarist's gaze-the establishment and in-stitutionalization of control through political rule and knowledge formation. To know is a prelude to possessing, especially if there is a huge asymmetry of power. Such asymmetry led to situations where it was perfectly acceptable for a participant in the Tibet mission of 1903-4 to say, "In fact the visible riches and treasures of Lhasa fairly made our mouths water. The Tibetans however would not sell, and to our honour be it said; although Lhasa was a fair object to loot, and lay in our power, not a farthings worth was forcibly [author adds this word in pen in a typed text] taken from it" (IOR: MSS EUR/C270/FL2/E/1/144, 6; emphasis added; see Carrington 2003 for an analysis of the predatory nature of the mission). Securing priceless artifacts through coercion and displaying them in the private and public collections in the West was an essential feature of Western imperialism.

Paradoxically, the project of rendering the Other knowable and the image of it as primitive and simple went hand in hand with the recognition that there are elements of inscrutability and mystery that eluded complete understanding of the Other. While discussing his own failure to fathom the unease of Phuntsog, a Tibetan who is no longer considered an "authentic" native as he has learned the language of the imperialist, Candler, an early example of embedded reporter (a Daily Mail reporter accompanying the British invasion of Tibet in 1903-4), calls him a "strange hybrid product of restless western energies, stirring and muddying the shallows of the Eastern mind. Or are they depths? Who knows? I know nothing, only that these men are inscrutable, and one cannot see into their hearts" (1905, 206).

Frustrated with the inaccessibility, invisibility, and inscrutability of "the Orientals," Western desire subjects them to a relentless investigation. Veil becomes a metaphor for all that invites, titillates, and yet resists Western knowing. It is "one of those tropes through which Western fantasies of penetration into the mysteries of the Orient and access to the interiority of the other are fantasmatically achieved" (Yegenoglu 1998, 39).

Surveillance and gaze facilitate other representational strategies that fix the Orient and the Other, particularly those that seek to classify, differentiate, and provide identity to the Other (and in turn to the Self).

Differentiation – Classification

Differentiation and classification, two crucial factors in the formation of the modern subject (Foucault 1984, 7-11), are also evident in Western representations of the Other. The ideational differentiation between the West and the Rest underpins these representations. The need to articulate one's personal and collective self in terms of identity comes from an internalization of this principle of differentiation. Classification occupies a central place in any account of non-Western people. It polices discourses, assigns positions, regulates groups, and enforces boundaries (Spurr 1993, 63). Given the taxonomizing predilection and conceit of Western imperialism, we can hardly disagree with Rampa's conjecture about the fate of the yetis: "[If] Western Man had his way, our poor old yetis would be captured, dissected, and preserved in spirit" (1956, 220).

While some classifications may be essential for understanding, often the classification of non-Western peoples was a corollary of the hierarchization and racialization of cultures. Classifying the Other as barbarian or savage validated its dehumanization and was seen as justification for the use of violence to impose European norms (Keal 2003; Salter 2002). At the top were the white Europeans and at the bottom were "primitive" Africans and aboriginal populations in the "new world." Chinese, Arabs, Indians, and others occupied different positions in the hierarchical table. The nineteenth- and twentieth-century obsession with racializing culture can be seen in the case of Tibetans too where different commentators sought to identify characteristics of the Tibetan "race." A typical example was Sandberg, who was unflattering in his comments about the "'Tibetan race' as 'a weak and cowardly people, their pusillanimity rendering them readily submissive'" (in Bonnington and Clarke 2000, 209). The fact that racism has less to do with color and more to do with power relations becomes evident in the British treatment of the Irish as "colored," as "white negroes" (McClintock 1995, 52; Lebow 1976) during the nineteenth century. Captain William Frederick O'Connor's observation at the start of the twentieth century about Tibet is illustrative: "Common people are cheerful, happy-go-lucky creatures, absurdly like the Irish in their ways, and sometimes even in their features" (in Sharma and Sharma 1996, 191; emphasis added). On the other hand, the French traveler Alexandra David-Neel finds that dobdob, the Lhasa monk "police," looks like a "real negro" (1936, 105). Differentiation, classification, and identification, when combined with racialization, evolutionism, and hierarchization, lead to the debasement of most non-Western natives and idealization of some.

Debasement – Idealization

The seemingly opposite techniques of debasement (and its corollary negation) and idealization (and its corollary affirmation) have similar rhetorical structures; these involve processes of decontextu-alization and othering. In terms of Western representations of the non-West, the binary of the noble/ignoble savage has been a product of such discursive practices. The ease with which writers and observers have switched between highly negative and eulogizing appraisals of Tibetan culture is illustrative. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Tibetans were seen as either "backward and barbaric or noble and charming" (Dodin and Rather 2001a, 397).

Natives have been debased and associated with filth and dirt numerous times. The discourse of contamination and disease was used to enforce colonial oppression and to inculcate a sense of inferiority in the colonized peoples. This has particularly been the case with the representations of Tibet and Lhasa where physical dirt was seen as symbolically standing for an inherent weakness in Tibetan character. Thomas Manning, the first Englishman to visit Lhasa, noted in 1811:

There is nothing striking, nothing pleasing in its appearance. The inhabitants are begrimed with dirt and smut. The avenues are full of dogs, some growling and gnawing bits of hide which lie about in profusion and emit a charnel-house smell; others limping and looking livid; others ulcerated; others starved and dying, and pecked at by ravens; some dead and preyed upon. In short, everything seems mean and gloomy, and excites the idea of something unreal. Even the mirth and laughter of the inhabitants I thought dreamy and ghostly. (in Chapman 1992, 146-47)

The British Foreign Office, in its report of 1920 in the section on "geography," felt under compulsion to allude to the poor sanitary conditions and the "gruesome custom" of the disposal of the dead by cutting them into pieces and leaving them to be devoured by vultures, dogs, and pigs (Foreign Office 1920, 22). George Knight, the leader of the 1922-23 British expedition to Tibet "affirms" the truth of various labels attached to Tibet: "It is a land of mountains, monasteries and monks, land of women, dogs and dirt, country of the great unwashed" (1930, 25; see also Knight 1894). However, the unequivocal condemnation of Tibetans for being "dirty" began to change as some visitors starting reevaluating the dominant Western stance. Chapman, visiting in the late 1930s, amended his preconceived conclusions about Lhasa: "It is true that the common people do not wash, that their houses are, by our standards, filthy, and that they live in a state of serfdom-but what a delightful folk, nevertheless" (1992, 146). [22]


[22] Interestingly, since 2002 British supermarkets have sold a "Tibet" line of haircare products (with names such as "Rebirth" and "Balance"), promising "beauty through balance" (http://www.tibetbeauty.com). Indeed, Tibet has come a long way from being a "country of the great unwashed."