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Debasement of the natives often accompanied the strategy of negation by which Western writings conceive of the Other as absence, emptiness, nothingness, thus denying Other its agency, its history, and, often, its language. Negation serves to erase what one sees in order to clear "a space for the expansion of the colonial imagination and for the pursuit of desire" (Spurr 1993, 92-93). This, in colonial times, led to ground clearing for the expansion of colonial rule in places including the Americas, Australia, and parts of Africa.

Idealization and self-affirmation often exist along with negation and debasement as evidenced in the present-day positive exoticiza-tion of Tibet in the Western popular imagination. Paradoxically, despite its difference, Tibet was often seen as the non-Western culture with which Europeans could identify (see Kaschewsky 2001). While early Christians sought traces of a forgotten community of Christians here, theosophists looked for the lost brotherhood of wise hermits. In the mid-nineteenth century, Joseph Wolff popularized the idea of a long-lost population of Jews in the Himalayas (Feigon 1996: 14-15; see also Kamenetz 1995; Katz 1991). On the other hand, the Nazi SS sent an expedition in 1938-39 to ascertain whether Tibet was an abode of true Aryans or not (Hale 2004). Thus, we can see that there are various ways in which often conflicting desires of the West got invested in Tibet. One such set of conflicting desires is expressed through the strategies of eroticization/ moralization.

Eroticization – Moralization

Eroticization and moralization are central to Western representations of the Other. Reference to the licentiousness and voracious sexual appetite of Arabs/Africans, the feminization of Asian males, the availability of docile and yet elusive Oriental women-such motifs are conspicuous in many Western fiction and nonfiction writings and in films. The Orient becomes the "fertile" ground on which the sexual fantasies of Western "men" (mainly though not exclusively; for a discussion of gender and imperialism, see Blunt and Rose 1994; Lewis 1996; McClintock 1995; Midgley 1998; Sharpe 1993) is played out. The ideas of sexual innocence and experience, sexual domination and submissiveness play out a complex dance in the discourse of "the West and the Rest" (Hall 1992, 302; also see Schick 1999).

One important reason for eroticization, of course, has been to escape from conventional censorship in metropolitan societies. Association is made between the Orient and the "freedom of licentious sex" and "escapism of sexual fantasy" (Said 1978, 190). Contemporary incarnations of such images can be seen in a range of places, from sex tourism at Thai beaches to the standardization of "Oriental" sex as a commodity in the "red light" districts of Europe. At the same time, the Orient also provides opportunities for the play of "forbidden" desires of same-sex love, especially male homosexuality, as evident in the works of William Beckford, Lord Byron, T. E. Lawrence, Edward Carpenter, and E. M. Forster (see Parsons 1997), to name a few. Investment of these "forbidden" desires in the non-West may be a resistance to the hegemonic masculinity of metropolitan culture, but it does not challenge the unequal power relations between the Western representer and the non-Western represented.

The very language of exploration was marked by strong gender distinctions and drew much of its subconscious force from sexual imagery. Discovery of America was often seen literally as dis-covering of the unknown land, un-covering of the naked, available, desirable, and primitive female body of America by the clothed, civilized European man (for instance, Jan van der Straet's 1575 depiction The Discovery of America; see Gallagher 1997).

The intent to subjugate indigenous people can be seen as the male's mastery of the female. The feminization of colonial space is an act of epistemic as well as corporeal violence. The feminized landscape titillated and provoked explorers and discoverers to take control of her, to possess her-this was a common sentiment expressed in exploration literature from the fifteenth century onward. Edward William Lane described his first sight of Egypt in 1825 thus: "As I approached the shore, I felt like an Eastern bridegroom, about to lift the veil of his bride, and to see, for the first time, the features that were to charm, or disappoint, or disgust him" (in Kabbani 1986, 67).

These erotics of imperial conquest evident in the evocation of feminized space were linked to the Enlightenment's pursuit of truth. After all, "study, understanding, knowledge, evaluation… are instruments of conquest" (Said 1978, 309). European consciousness is encoded as masculine and the object of knowledge as feminine. The combination of knowledge and eroticization is illustrated strongly in Bell's description of Lhasa as practically "untouched by white men"-"Shut off from their outer world by their immense mountain barriers, Tibet still presented a virgin field of inquiry" (1928, viii; emphasis added). Grenard regrets Tibet's closure, her foiling of attempts by Europeans to pry her open: "In truth, the Tibetans are one of the nations that have changed the least in the course of the centuries and it is greatly to be regretted that they are so difficult to access and so obstinately opposed to enquiries" (1904, 373). This resonates with Said's analysis of the Middle East in the Western imagination: "The Middle East is resistant, as any virgin would be, but the male scholar wins the prize by bursting open, penetrating through the Gordian knot despite the 'taxing task'" (1978, 309).

Not surprisingly, after the British invasion of Lhasa in 1903-4, Lord Curzon wrote, "I am almost ashamed of having destroyed the virginity of the bride to whom you aspired, viz. Lhasa," in a letter addressed to Sven Hedin (a famous Swedish explorer) as the latter described the expedition as "the rape of Lhasa" (in Schell 2000, 201). For his part, Hedin lost "the longing that had possessed [him] to penetrate the Holy City" (in Bishop 1989, 176). These writers and commentators draw upon a long tradition of what McClintock calls "European porno-tropics" treating "male travel as an erotics of ravishment" in which uncertain places were figured as "libidi-nously eroticized" (1995, 22). The most prevalent metaphor for the British invasion of Tibet was that of "unveiling." [23] Candler (1905) titled his account Unveiling of Lhasa. The attitude of European travelers to Tibet was "almost voyeuristic," the most commonly expressed aim being to "get a 'peep' at Tibet, or at Lhasa" (Bishop 1989, 177). [24] Millington, who later wrote his book as "a man in the street," described going to Lhasa as "assisting in drawing aside a purdah" and departure as the "show was over" (1905, 77, 199). Writing about Lhasa, Waddell says that the enigma has been solved (virginity lost!) for the

fairy Prince of "Civilisation" has roused her from her slumbers, her closed doors are broken down, her dark veil of mystery is lifted up, and the long-sealed shrine, with its grotesque cults and its idolised Grand Lama, shorn of his sham nimbus, have yielded up their secrets, and lie disenchanted before our Western eyes. Thus, alas! Inevitably, do our cherished romances of the old pagan world crumble at the touch of our modern hands! (1905, 2)


[23] For Tibetophiles such as Heinrich Hensoldt and Madame Helena Blavatsky (theosophists), the veil was an important metaphor too. But for them it was the Tibetans, especially the Dalai Lama, who lifted the veil, the other veil, the mystical veil of Isis (Bishop 1989, 182).


[24] Sociologically, most of the European travelers to Tibet were men operating with specific notions of masculinity. British officials explicitly discouraged female travelers, who were seen as a threat to British prestige. Basil Gould, the political agent in Sikkim and later head of the 1936 Lhasa mission, decreed that women were not permitted to travel in Tibet without a male escort (McKay 1997, 172-73).