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Stereotyping is a simplification because it freezes what is otherwise a fluid, contested, complex always-in-motion identity. Let me illustrate this with an example from the story of the first two men to reach Mount Everest-Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary. Reaching the summit, Tenzing Norgay says he felt the warm presence of the mountain, buried an offering to the gods, and said in prayer: "I am grateful, Chomolungma" (in Hansen 1998); Hillary took photographs to survey the area, urinated on the summit, and later told one of the other climbers, George Lowe: "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off" (Outside Online 1999). This difference in attitude may be due to cultural factors. But to interpret humility as passivity and fix the identity of Tenzing Norgay (read as representative of Sherpas and other natives) as essentially passive in contrast to adventurous, scientific Hillary (read as white man) leads to a reified and fixated form of representation (excluding those who do not "fit" in the image-women, for instance). Stereotyping is not about expressing cultural difference but fixing it in a pregiven sociocultural milieu with extreme power differentials.

Stereotyping served imperialism at both representational and psychic levels-supporting the idea of paternal domination and acting as a kind of perceptual blinder protecting the colonizers from the discomforting consciousness of either poverty or guilt (Lebow 1976, 22). It allowed the participants in the massacre of Tibetans at Guru (31 March 1904) that took place during the British invasion of Tibet to blame it on the "crass stupidity and childishness of the Tibetan general" (Mehra 1979, 223), malevolent "thorough-going obstructionist" (IOR: MSS EUR/F197/105 n.d., 6) monks, superstitious Tibetan soldiers-everyone except themselves. We must liberate the ordinary natives from their brutal leaders-this sentiment can be seen in Colonel Francis Younghusband's account of the 1903-4 expedition to Tibet where, after criticizing Tibetans for being crafty, immoral, overreligious, dirty, and lazy, he talks about the role of the British in providing enlightened guidance to ordinary Tibetans (Younghusband 1910, 321). Younghusband argued for a permanent settlement at the end of the invasion "which would prevent the Lhasa Lamas from ever again usurping monopoly of power to the detriment of British interests and to the ruin of their own country" (IOR: MSS EUR/F197/106 n.d., 2).

Though in everyday conversation we tend to use stereotypes only for negative images, stereotyping has within it dualism and ambivalence (Bhabha 1983; Chow 1993; Hall 1997a). As Hunt in his study of hierarchy of race and American foreign policy points out, the Americans created for "Orientals" two distinctly different images: "a positive one, appropriate for happy times when paternalism and benevolence were in season, and a negative one, suited to those tense periods when abuse or aggrandizement became the order of the day" (1987, 69). While sometimes a positive stereotype may be politically and socially helpful for a group, in the long run it reifies and imprisons the represented subjects in their own arrested image. This problem can be seen most clearly in the case of Tibetans, who seem to be prisoners of their stereotyped images. Alluding to the real effects of the language of stereotype about Tibet, Lopez points out that it "not only creates knowledge about Tibet, in many ways it creates Tibet, a Tibet that Tibetans in exile have come to appropriate and deploy in an effort to gain both standing in exile and independence for their country" (1998, 10). However, these stereotypes legitimize only certain goals and actions geared toward achieving them-the prevalent stereotypes paint Tibetans mainly as passive victims requiring outside help. And this outside support comes at a price.


In spite of commonalities and consistencies, it is complexity, opposi-tionality, and ambivalence that lie at the heart of Western colonial representations. Imaginative practices through which the imperial West came to represent the Other can be interrogated through the various strategies of representation involved. Though there was always a will to reify the represented, this was undermined by the nature of representation-it was not a singular act but one necessitating repetition. There always was a paradox in the Western representations of other cultures-an unresolvable tension between transparency and inscrutability, desire and disavowal, difference and familiarity. Therefore Exotica Tibet is not a distinct phenomenon devoid of contrariety; rather, it is defined by a "true complexio oppositorum, a rich complexity of contradictions and oppositions" (Bishop 1989, 63, emphasis in original). So near, yet so far! As Zizek puts it:

The very inconsistency of this image of Tibet, with its direct coincidence of opposites, seems to bear witness to its fantasmatic status. Tibetans are portrayed as people leading a simple life of spiritual satisfaction, fully accepting their fate, liberated from the excessive craving of the Western subject who is always searching for more, AND as a bunch of filthy, cheating, cruel, sexually promiscuous primitives… The social order is presented as a model of organic harmony, AND as the tyranny of the cruel corrupted theocracy keeping ordinary people ignorant. (2001, 64-66; emphasis in original).

The following section of the chapter analyzes the most common discursive strategies marshaled in the representation of the non-Western Other in the context of Western imperialism and uses Exotica Tibet as the main empirical site of investigation.


Surveillance is a technique through which, under an overpowering gaze, the non-Western subject is rendered "a knowable, visible object of disciplinary power" (Doty 1996b, 11). The gaze is not mere innocent curiosity: "to gaze implies more than to look at-it signifies a psychological relationship of power, in which the gazer is superior to the object of the gaze" (Schroeder 1998, 208). Through observation, examination, and interpretation objects are differentiated, categorized, identified, and made ready to be acted upon. Objectification (fixing the essence) of the gazed goes hand in hand with its subjectification-gaze and surveillance are productive of the identity of the gazed.

Surveillance as a strategy for representing the Other and rendering it disciplined is characterized by the all-knowing gaze of a white

"man," the colonial master, the West. It enables both the visual possession of the body of the gazed and an interposition of technique that safely conceals the body of the gazer (Spurr 1993, 22). Observations then are presented as dispassionate, objective facts. The gaze is disembodied-statements are made as if there is no seer behind the observations.

This is not to say that non- Westerners are visually impaired, powerless to gaze back at the West. But the authority of imperialism for a large part of the modern period ensured that mastery and control remained a possession of Western "man." The "monarch of all I survey" rhetorical gesture remained peculiar to the West (Pratt 1992, 201). Establishment of mastery through surveillance, gaze, and observation was accompanied by consolidation of shades of political dominance over the object of the gaze. Appropriation was done in the name of scientific curiosity, ethnographic material gathering, protection of simple masses from their own despotic rulers, or the spread of progress.