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Geopolitical Exotica

Geopolitical Exotica: Tibet in Western Imagination

Series: Borderlines
Volume: 30
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Geopolitical Exotica
    Book Description:

    Dibyesh Anand lays bare the strategies by which “Exotica Tibet” and “Tibetanness” have been constructed and investigates the impact these constructions have had on those who are being represented. In this masterfully synthetic work, Anand establishes that postcoloniality provides new insights into themes of representation and identity and demonstrates how IR as a discipline can meaningfully expand its focus beyond the West.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5381-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xx)

    Though critical international theories have questioned mainstream International Relations (IR) on epistemological, ontological, and methodological grounds, they remain largely focused on the “West.” I contend that the parochial character of IR can be effectively challenged by a postcolonial IR based on conversations between critical international theories and postcolonialism. Adopting a historical analytical perspective, I examine “Exotica Tibet” (henceforth used as a shorthand for Western exoticized representations of Tibet and Tibetans) and its constitutive significance for the “Tibet question.”¹ Exotica Tibet is interrogated in terms of itspoetics(how Tibet is represented) and itspolitics(what impact these representational regimes have...

  5. 1 Postcoloniality, Representation, and World Politics
    (pp. 1-16)

    Non-Western peoples, and sometimes even states, have been ridden roughshod over both literally and figuratively in IR. One such people are the Tibetans. It is surprising that even as several critical theories have challenged the dominant IR paradigms on ontological, epistemological, and methodological grounds in the last two decades, geographical parochialism has continued relatively unabated. My contention is that a postcolonial critical attitude,postcoloniality, offers an effective means of challenging this. The rejection of positivism (see Ashley and Walker 1990a, 1990b; Campbell 1998a, 1998b; Campbell and Dillon 1993; DerDerian and Shapiro 1989; George 1994; Lapid 1989; Shapiro 1988; Sjolander and...

  6. 2 Imagining the Other
    (pp. 17-36)

    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;...

  7. 3 Poetics of Exotica Tibet
    (pp. 37-64)

    The poetics of Exotica Tibet requires a critical postcolonial analysis of Western representations of Tibet, and this can be performed effectively by focusing on a few cultural sites commonly associated with Tibet and Tibetans. This is a (partial) story of Western interactions with Tibet during various historical periods—it is about the production of images of Tibet within these interactions as well as about how the interactions were in turn framed under specific imaginative regimes. The constitutive relation between Western interactions and imaginations of Tibet is the subject of this chapter. Following Doty, these Western interactions can be seen in...

  8. 4 The West and the Identity of “Tibet”
    (pp. 65-86)

    Tibet as it emerged in the modern world as a geopolitical entity has been scripted in a tale combining imperialism, Orientalism, and nationalism. This chapter foregrounds the role of Western representations in the framing of the “identity of Tibet,” that is, Tibet as a geopolitical entity. The West is not seen as an outsider in the “Tibet question” but as a constituent part of it. Specific Western conceptualizations of territoriality, practices of imperial diplomacy, and contemporary foreign policies have constructed the “Tibet” within the “Tibet question.”¹ Through a historical analysis of the crucial role played by British imperialism in the...

  9. 5 The Politics of Tibetan (Trans)National Identity
    (pp. 87-108)

    Until the last decades of the twentieth century, the preoccupation with religion and history contributed to a relative neglect of the issues of contemporary Tibetan identity within social and political studies (see Shakya 1996). The signifier “Tibetan” is usually seen in terms of an ontological essentialism.¹ This often leads to a papering over of the socially constructed and politically contested nature of Tibetan cultural and political identity, or “Tibetanness,” as it may conveniently be called (for different approaches, see Klieger 1994; Korom 1997a, 1997b; Nowak 1984). This chapter, along with the next, examines the articulations of Tibetanness in political and...

  10. 6 Postcoloniality and Reimag(in)ing Tibetanness
    (pp. 109-128)

    Tibetanness, or Tibetan identity, is a contingent product of negotiations among several complementary and contradictory processes. These processes may be looked at in terms of different pairs of contrastive dynamics, such as the imperatives of a culture-in-displacement and the need to present an overarching stable identity; interaction with host societies and an avoidance of cultural assimilation into hegemonic cultural formations there; emphasis on tradition as the defining characteristic and the presentation of exiled Tibetans as “modern”; the desire to represent Tibetan culture as unique while at the same time highlighting its universal features; interaction with a sympathetic Western audience and...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 129-132)

    To “forget IR theory” (Bleiker 1997) is not to ignore it, for any such attempt will leave intact a disciplinary endeavor that has significant purchase on the understanding and construction of world politics. Rather, this forgetting involvesunprivilegingthe dominant modes of analysis of world politics and learning tothink differently. From an IR perspective, the learning process within this book has involved journeying into theexoticthoughtscape of social theory, postcolonialism, diaspora studies, cultural theory, colonial discourse analysis, and Tibetology. The journey led to a shedding of old baggage and picking up of new; it had temporary halts but...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 133-150)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 151-182)
  14. Publication History
    (pp. 183-184)
  15. Index
    (pp. 185-190)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-193)