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It is important for my analysis to underline a two-pronged approach I will be taking. First, I will explore the poetics of representation-how is Tibet as the Other represented, how is Tibet produced within representations about it. This entails examining how Tibet is imagined within Western culture by looking at literature (both fiction and nonfiction), films, travel accounts, and so on. Second, I will analyze the politics of representation-effects and consequences of representation on the identity of Tibet and Tibetans. The latter places expositions on Tibet in the context of power, imperialism, neocolonialism, (trans)nationalism, and Orientalism. Chapters 2 and 3 will discuss the poetics while chapters 4, 5, and 6 will deal with the politics of Western representations of Tibet.

2. Imagining the Other

Within the context of European imperialism, the issue of the representation of natives was often considered as belonging to the realm of scientific objective ethnography, journalistic commentaries, or fiction (Spurr 1993). A clear boundary was said to exist between fiction and nonfiction writing. It was presumed that, unlike fiction, nonfiction writing such as literary and popular journalism, exploration and travel writings, memoirs of colonial officials, and so on are unmediated by the consciously aesthetic requirements of imaginative literature. Emphasis was on the recording of observed facts. However, as argued by scholars from fields as diverse as postcolonial theory (Bhabha 1983; McClintock 1995; Said 1978; Shohat 1995; Spurr 1993), anthropology (Clifford 1988; Clifford and Marcus 1986; Fabian 1990; Van Maanen 1995), and international relations (Campbell 1998b; Doty 1996b; Weldes et al. 1999), such views are no longer tenable. Starting with Said (1978) the enterprise of postcolonial theory has unpacked the notion of neutral academic expertise and highlighted how Western knowledge and representations of the non -Western world are neither innocent nor based on some preexisting "reality" but implicated in the West's will to power and its imperial adventures. The image of a scientific, apolitical, disinterested, knowledge-seeking "gentleman" braving all odds to study non-Western cultures has been revealed as hollow.

The mask of objectivity in the colonial discourse hid relations of inequality and domination. Fiction as well as nonfiction writings were permeated with various strategies of representation. These were not epiphenomenal but central to the ways in which the Other was sought to be known. What Kabbani points out about travel writing holds true for nonfictional writings in generaclass="underline" during imperialism, it ultimately produced "a communal image of the East," which "sustained a political structure and was sustained by it" (1986, 10).

Various forms of representing the non-West-visual (films, television, photographs, paintings, advertisements, and so on) as well as textual (such as fiction, travelogue, journalism, ethnography, and anthropology)-were closely linked to the production of imperial encounters. Asymmetry of productive power is a common trait shared by these encounters. The contemporary neocolonial world too "bears witness to the unequal and uneven forces of cultural representation involved in the contest for political and social within the modern world order" (Bhabha 1994, 171). It is not only the represented (here the colonized, the third world, the South) who are subjects of and subjected to the process; even the representer (the colonizer, the first world, the West) is constructed by representational practices. This in no way implies similar experiences for the colonizer and the colonized (the representer and the represented). It only indicates that though everyone is subjected to representational practices, the impact differs according to the existing power relations. To illustrate this point, while both the West and Tibetans are subjects of Exotica Tibet, and the latter are not mere victims but exercise their agency through creative negotiations, the West does not have to construct its identity according to the perception of Tibetans. Westerners exoticize Tibet, and in turn, Tibetans exoticize the West. But while Western exoticization has a defining productive impact on Tibetan identity discourse (as discussed in detail in chapters 5 and 6), the same cannot be said of Tibetan exoticization of the West. This reflects the asymmetry in their power relations.

A concentration on Western representations does not deny the fact that representational practices were prevalent in non-Western societies too. In fact, historically all cultures and civilizations have had their own particular representational practices for perceiving those they considered as Other. But-and this is a crucial qualification-it was only with modern European imperialism that the capacity to convert these representations into truth on a systematic and mass scale emerged. What makes such representational practices distinctly modern is their productive capacity. Production of knowledge about the Other through representations goes hand in hand with the construction, articulation, and affirmation of differences between the Self and Other, which in turn feed into the identity politics among the representer as well as the represented.


The practices of essentializing and stereotyping the Other underlie different strategies of Western representations. Essentialism is the notion that some core meaning or identity is determinate and not subject to interpretation. Inden writes that essentialist ways of seeing tend to ignore the "intricacies of agency" pertinent to the flux and development of any social system (1990, 20). In the colonial context, we find essentialism in the reduction of the indigenous people to an "essential" idea of what it means to be "native"-say, Africans as singing-dancing-fighting, Chinese as duplicitous, Arabs as cruel and oppressors of women, Tibetans as religious, and so on. Imperialism drew its strength from representations of natives as quintessentially lazy, ignorant, deceitful, passive, incapable of self-governing, and the native rulers as corrupt and despotic. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the British officials involved during the 1903-4 invasion of Tibet saw it as something welcomed by "ordinary" Tibetans seeking deliverance from their Chinese and monastic overlords. Captain Cecil Rawling in a military report in 1905 wrote: "It seems to be the general wish of the inhabitants of that country (Tibet) that they should come under British administration" (in Lamb i960, 296). Curiously, Lamb's own assessment that "when dealing with the primitive peoples of Central Asia, the problem often was not how to expand one's power but how to prevent its indefinite expansion" (101; emphasis added) also puts the onus of responsibility for imperial expansion on the victims themselves. This is made possible by their essentialist representations as requiring paternal imperialism-an alternation of iron fist and velvet glove.

A stereotype is a one-sided description of a group/culture resulting from the collapsing of complex differences into a simple "cardboard cut-out," seeing people as a preset image and "more of a formula than a human being" (Gross 1966, 2). It reduces people to a few, simple characteristics, which are then represented as fixed by nature. "Stereotyping reduces, essentialises, naturalises and fixes 'difference'" (Hall 1997a, 257-58). Stereotypes function as a marker between norm and deviancy (see Gilman 1985), between "us" and "them." As Said argues, stereotypical images of the Orient's separateness-"its eccentricity, its backwardness, its silent indifference, its feminine penetrability, its supine malleability"-have been part of Western discursive practices for a long time (1978, 4). Such images flourished to justify imperialism as a civilizing mission-the restless, honest, active, exploratory, masculine, enlightened, modern spirit of the "white man" stood in contrast to the laziness, deceit, passivity, fatalism, femininity, backwardness, and traditional spiritlessness of the natives. For example, Captain John Noel's films Climbing Mount Everest (1922) and The Epic of Everest (1924) developed the "contrast between the extroverted, aggressive, and manly British climbers with the introverted, passive, and squalid but mystical Tibetans" (Hansen 2001, 92-93).