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- 27 04 2002 - 12:20 - katatonik

Where are the others?

From Toni Huber’s review of an essay collection entitled “Constructing Tibetan Culture: Contemporary Perspectives” (edited by Frank Korom, 1997, World Heritage Press):

“Considering the Tibetan exile subjects featured in these essays, one notes that they form an unrepresentative group: intellectuals, artists and performers, lamas and administrators, many of whom are concentrated in the small exile “capital” of Dharamsala. And, with the sole exception of a publicly harassed female singer who is relegated to an endnote, the subjects are all male (are there any women in Tibetan exile “culture construction?” we are left to wonder). They are also those persons actively and publicly constructing and negotiating their own versions of Tibetan culture. Recent scholars in this field seem to be attracted by such research subjects and their representations. Partly this has to do with accessibility in terms of language and Western cultural fluency, partly with a willingness on the subjects’ part for the opportunity to represent their own views of Tibet and Tibetans to a wider (even global) audience. In my own experience, most Tibetan refugees are not like these persons, and certainly do not live in Dharamsala, but in rather non-cosmopolitan agricultural and craft communities. They tend to be humble and self-effacing, conservative, often uncritically devoted to their leaders, seemingly as avid about watching Hindi films as attending religious ceremonies, and they have Hindi or Nepali, not English, as their second language. Why are these many Tibetan exiles left backstage or merely out in the audience in the study of “Tibetan culture”?”

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