Shangri-la in Exile

Representations of Tibetan Identity and Transnational Culture

Toni Huber
Department of Asien- and African Studies
Humboldt University Berlin


In many publications and press releases issuing from the Tibetan exile community during the 1980s and 1990s, one encounters a set of claims about the fundamental identity of Tibetans and the character of their traditional society and culture. These claims include statements such as: “Tibetans are an essentially peaceful and nonviolent people, who never developed an army of their own,” and “Environmentalism is an innate aspect of Tibetan culture,” and “Women in traditional Tibet enjoyed a higher degree of equality than in other Asian societies.” While seemingly innocent and perhaps even seductive, such images and their supporting texts often have little or nothing to do with so-called tradition and its continuity in the postdiaspora period.

Indeed, these types of reflexive, politicized notions of Tibetan culture and identity are unprecedented and distinctly modern. They should be understood as the products of a complex transnational politics of identity within which populations such as the Tibetan exiles, the Sherpas, and the Bhutanese are increasingly representing themselves and being represented by others.¹ They are also very recent, first appearing as an aspect of Tibetan exile self-representation during the mid-1980s. It is also important to note that such identity statements are a specific product of the small Tibetan exile milieu, being a response to the experience of exile rather than the experience of colonization. Thus, although such images circulate in the exile community and are now globally disseminated, they are also limited: They enjoy virtually no currency among the more than 95 percent of ethnic Tibetans living within the present claimed boundaries of political China.

I will not discuss the validity of recent Tibetan exile identity statements and claims herein, although it is certainly appropriate that they be scrutinized by both Tibetans and non-Tibetans alike, and contested if found wanting. Rather, I am primarily concerned with the representational style and agenda of this new type of Tibetan exile self-image. I will outline the social and historical context of their appearance and will consider the manner of their deployment by the exile community.

I will discuss four main points below:

(i) Tibetan exiles have reinvented a kind of modern, liberal Shangri-la image of themselves, which has its precedents in two different sets of discourses, the first of which is the product of the three powerful “-isms” of early modernity: colonialism, orientalism, and nationalism. The second set derives from liberal social and protest movements that originated mainly in the industrialized West, but which are now transnational in scope and appeal: environmentalism, pacifism, human rights, and feminism.
(ii) These new identity images were not spontaneously born out of a groundswell of changes in the general consciousness of the majority of the Tibetan exile population. Rather, they share the same general type of parentage as most identity images in emergent nationalisms throughout the developing world. In this case they are largely the creation of a political and intellectual elite in exile. This small group of educated and cosmopolitan Tibetans has learned and skillfully adapted a repertoire of modern representational styles and strategies during the course of their enforced and prolonged contact with the modern world.²
(iii) The experience of the diaspora provided the initial stimulus for modern Tibetan identity production. However, the Tibetan exile elite synthesized these new self-images only after they gained access to ad began to draw heavily upon the globalized production and flow of cultural resources and institutions offered by the contemporary transnational cultural environment.³
(iv) The “myth of Tibet” was historically a Western enterprise. However, new Tibetan exile identity claims represent, at least in part, an appropriation of Western discourse by the objectified Tibetan “Other” and its creative reflection back to the West. Exile identity claims are often so appealing to, and uncritically accepted by, many Westerners precisely because of such feedback.

As my primary example, I will focus on the construction of an envi­ronmentalist Tibetan identity, because this was one of the first forms of exile identity to appear publicly, and it has since been articulated in the greatest detail.⁴ It should be noted, however, that the same social forces at work here can also be seen in exile community projections of a non­violent or pacifist or gender-equal Tibet as well. Let us analyze some specific expressions of these identities.

Style and Content: The Example of Environmentalist Tibetans

The style and agenda of new Tibetan identity statements are complex, to say the least. This complexity in part reflects the variety of discourses that these new identities have drawn upon. It also derives from the intentions of the exile political and intellectual elite to create a distinct community of sentiment to direct at a liberal Western and non-Tibetan audience of potential supporters in lobbying for the cause of Tibetan independence from Chinese colonialism.

Invoking an environmentalist Tibetan identity has become an almost obligatory aspect of publicly presenting the issue of Tibet in the 1990s. We find such images in pro-Tibetan political literature, especially in a range of increasingly sophisticated texts issued by the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India. From these sources such images have become globally disseminated into popular world media. An article published in a leading German daily newspaper in 1995, and quoting a Tibetan exile spokesperson, provides a typical example:

[In Tibet] Buddhist faith dominated everyday life … Plants, animals and “inanimate” nature were as important and valuable as human beings to the Tibetans. The Tibetans always tried to preserve the ecological balance upon which they felt they depended … Since we [Tibetans] have lived like that for many centuries it has become difficult for us to distinguish between religious practice and concern for the environment.⁵

This excerpt is typical of statements of environmentalist Tibetan identity.⁶ They stress the innateness of a certain type of traditional worldview or values and behavior, which are always described in terms of completely modern concepts and language, such as “ecological balance” and “preservation.” Also Buddhism, the newly erected central pillar of contemporary Tibetan nationalism, takes center stage, as though this religion were the mainspring of the claimed identity.

Other exile statements boldly claim the global preeminence in space and time of this environmentalist Tibetan identity. For instance:

The Tibetan traditional heritage, which is known to be over three thousand years old, can be distinguished as one of [the] foremost traditions of the world in which … humankind and its natural environment have persistently remained in perfect harmony.⁷

The flip side of establishing the antiquity and tradition of this environmentalist identity is that its contemporary validity must also be simultaneously demonstrated. Thus, it is often stated that “there is a specific connection between the customs of ancient Tibet and contemporary environmental protection.”⁸ More specifically, Tibetans are said to have the same sort of systematic and reflexive “ecological” consciousness as that developed recently in Western scientific thought. Furthermore, this consciousness is claimed to be one that they have long applied to largescale regional ecosystems:

[W]e Tibetans have always been aware of the interdependent nature of this world. We know that … [f]or most of Asia, Tibet’s environment has always been of crucial importance. And so for centuries Tibet’s ecosystem was kept in balance and alive out of a common concern for all humanity.⁹

While such texts are distinctly anachronistic, according to exile Tibetans, the key for understanding this contemporary validity of ancient traditions is Buddhism. We find many statements such as: “Both science and the teachings of the Buddha tell us of the fundamental unity of all things. This understanding is crucial if we are to take positive and decisive action on the pressing global concern with the environment.”¹⁰

Expressions like “interdependence” and “fundamental unity of all things” are frequently used in exile appeals for the scientific validity of Tibetan culture and Buddhism, whether it be modern ecological science, subatomic physics, cosmology, or psychology under discussion.

Contact with the West and Its Legacy

It is tempting to view this style of representation in terms of the popular catchwords of the New Age movement, and therefore locate the agency for these representations in the West.¹¹ This would be partly correct, as Western countercultural movements have had a continuing impact on Tibetan exile intellectuals since the 1960s, especially in the exile “capital” of Dharamsala. However, for Tibetan exiles as a modern South Asian Buddhist community, there are much older genealogies to be traced out here. Such identity construction has its roots in nearly a century of what Heinz Bechert so aptly described as “Buddhist Modernism,” some of whose salient features he described as: the reinterpretation of Buddhism as an essentially rational religion; the idea that Buddhism is a natural vehicle for various kinds of social reform; and the close connection between Buddhism and emergent South Asian anti-colonialism and nationalism.¹²

The colonial encounter between South Asian Buddhists and Westerners resulted in the interpretation of Buddhism as a so-called world religion. Central to this new interpretation was the notion of Buddhism as a rational and undogmatic system, more akin than, for example, Christianity to modern scientific rationalism. This involved rejecting as corruptions or distortions almost all the “superstitions” and traditional ritual elements found in the actual popular religious practices of Asian Buddhist societies. Thus, both the Orientalists and modern Asian Buddhists claimed philosophy, psychology, and meditation as constituting the “authentic” or “original” Buddhism. This formed the basis for the connection between the apparently rational character of Buddhism and the outlook of modern science in the minds of modern Buddhists.

Since the 1970s in particular, the Dharamsala elite, heavily dominated by the Gelugpa (dGe lugs pa) sect of Tibetan Buddhism, has consistently projected a sanitized Buddhist modernist-style representation of Tibetan Buddhism to the rest of the world. It has also attempted to legitimize Tibetan Buddhism’s modern validity by exploring its similarities to science, among other things. Such an interpretation was absolutely unthinkable in the reactionary, antimodernist Tibetan religious and political environment of less than half a century ago. The brutal reception given in midtwentieth-century Lhasa to those such as Gendun Chophel (dGe 'dun cbos 'phel), who were inspired by Buddhist modernism to reform the Tibetan tradition, is ample testimony of this fact. Yet following colonization and diaspora, Tibetan exiles began learning the Buddhist modernist style via contact with the forums of international Buddhism, in which articulate South Asian Buddhist modernists of long standing, such as Theravadins from Sri Lanka, often made the link between Buddhism and science.¹³ Thus, when environmentalism appeared on the exile agenda in the 1980s, it was easy to phrase claims about an environmentalist tradition and identity with terms lifted from the vocabulary of scientific ecology.

This is not all that the newly exiled Tibetans learned about identity construction from Buddhist modernism and international Buddhism, since their South Asian neighbors had already made Buddhism emblematic of the nation, of struggles against colonial oppression, and of social reform.

New international Buddhist groups, such as the World Fellowship of Buddhists (founded in 1950) and the World Buddhist Sangha Council (founded in 1966), began forming around the time of the Chinese colonization of Tibet and the subsequent diaspora. The Tibetans began participating in some of their activities. These international organizations understood their mission “as a contribution towards a solution of the problems of the world today.”¹⁴ The World Buddhist Sangha Council, in particular, felt its obligation was “to oppose war and to contribute towards achieving world peace ‘by spreading the Buddha’s message of compassion and wisdom against violence and materialist thinking devoid of moral values.’”¹⁵ Various forums of Buddhists for world peace were later staged as a result, and Tibetan exile leaders such as the Dalai Lama participated in them. It does not take much familiarity with the 1980s and 1990s Tibetan exile discourse on world peace and the projection of an essential nonviolent Tibetan national identity to see their direct derivation from precedents set by international Buddhism in previous decades. Here there is pointed irony in a fact recently noted by certain exile intellectuals: The widespread, nationalistic, and violent resistance movement by eastern Tibetans against Chinese occupation actually styled itself the Volunteer Army to Defend Buddhism.¹⁶ I mention this here in relation to recent nonviolent Tibetan identity claims because it demonstrates how quickly and effectively the exile elite has been able to transform the Tibetan Buddhist image. I will have more to say about the mechanisms of such transformations below.

Dynamics of Orientalism

Buddhist Modernism is but one of the foundations for the style and content of new exile identity images. There are also certain dynamics of Orientalist discourse in play by which the “myth of Tibet” has come full circle in various ways. One aspect of what some scholars label the “post-colonial predicament”¹⁷ is the way in which the Oriental Other has also been the creative agent for essentialist constructions, and moreover an agent who reflects, refracts, and recycles Orientalist discourse back to what is held to be the dominant objectifying group. Such a process has often been fostered by the common experience of exile under colonialism, during which such discourses as the Romantic Orientalism of the nineteenth century were imbibed by elite natives from their readings of European sources. A well-known example of this is, of course, Gandhi, who first read the Bhagavad Gita in English. More recently, such an experience has not been uncommon among exiled Tibetans. Many younger refugees with no adult experience of life in Tibet, educated in postcolonial India or growing up even more remotely in Switzerland, Canada, or the United States without their native language, have read of Tibet in the English-language accounts of an earlier generation of European writers including Bell, David-Néel, Harrer, Tucci, and Waddell.

An interesting example of the dynamics of imbibed Orientalist discourse, and one that has been demonstrably influential upon Tibetans, is Gandhian anticolonial rhetoric. The “Gandhian appeal to the greater spirituality of a Hindu India, compared with the materialism and violence of the West”¹⁸ is well known. Gandhi, who had good examples like Vivekananda to follow, accepted the essentialist terms of nineteenth-century Romantic Orientalist constructions of an innately “spiritual” India versus an inherently rational and materialist West. Such formulations have also frequently appeared in Tibetan exile identity claims. The Dalai Lama has often credited the great influence of Gandhi upon his thinking, and Gandhi’s biography became widely accessible to exile intellectuals when it was translated into Tibetan in the 1970s.¹⁹ Taking a leaf directly out of the Gandhian book, and influenced as well by the same types of earlier Romantic Orientalist constructions of Tibet, exile identity statements frequently appeal to innate Tibetan spirituality or unique religious orientation. They simultaneously construct a negative Other, in particular the soulless materialism and moral bankruptcy of Communist China or the greed and spiritual impoverishment of the industrialized Western world. For example, in an environmentalist Tibetan identity an innate and superior Tibetan religiosity is directly linked to the Tibetan’s apparent satisfaction with material simplicity, disinterest in material consumption, and even such things as the poor development of mining.²⁰ In opposition to this is posited the essential environmentally destructive Chinese or industrialized Western Other. The appearance of a negative Western Other here is of interest since China is the logical opposite for these Tibetan reverse-Orientalist appeals, because as dominant colonizer it so heavily devalued Tibetan religious life. Yet the modern, Westernized world system also becomes a negative Other of modern exile identity not only via Gandhi but through the borrowed Western cultural critique implicit in modern environmentalism, romantic ethnography, and travel writing.

Another aspect of Orientalist discourse appearing in Tibetan iden­tity claims is derived from what Tsering Shakya has called the “travelogue” interpretation of Tibet found in many Western texts. Shakya has noted a central strategy of this style that developed around the image and role of the “harsh and splendored” landscape in these accounts. For Western travelogue writers, he states, “This landscape they saw reflected in the essential nature of the Tibetan character and philosophy.”²¹ Herein lay the basis for environmental determinist portrayals of Tibetan society that are an essentializing strategy of longstanding in the contact history of European societies and their native Other. The Dalai Lama and other exile advocates often espouse exactly this form of environmental determinism. In their texts, innate Tibetan environmentalist culture and religiosity is specifically seen as a product of the “unique” natural world of the Tibetan plateau in which they live.²² Appeals to “primitivism” are yet another commonly borrowed style of the so-called Green Orientalism of Western writers now found in these Tibetan identity claims.²³

Cultural Identity and Transnational Institutions

The genealogies of essentialism in anticolonial writings, travelogues, and current Tibetan exile self-images have to be appreciated within a much larger and more complex frame of reference: the long history of contact between post-enlightenment Europeans and the rest of the world. The rise and development of Western notions of “culture” and their influence upon non-Western peoples in the contact process is of central importance. All modern Tibetan identity construction is related to this point—there is nothing about the process of forming new Tibetan self-images that cannot be seen to be operating in a myriad of other preceding contact situations between the West and its (variously conceived of) “Other.” In the twentieth century the culture concept lies at the heart of postcontact identity representations for both parties, and various ideas of “culture” are a key feature in the construction and fixing of difference.

It is instructive here to think about nativistic movements as discussed by Ralph Linton in the 1940s. Nativism can be seen in terms of “conscious, organized” attempts to perpetuate selected aspects of culture. This can only occur when one is aware of one’s culture as being unique—that is, in the contact situation. Nativistic movements seem to arise only in response to certain conditions, but particularly when a group finds itself politically and economically dominated or suppressed.²⁴ Such is the case of modern Tibetans. From the contact situation imposed by exile, Tibetans have learned to express coherently particular concepts of “culture” and have collected a whole range of representational styles and strategies during the process. It took some time before customs, practices, habits, and laws long taken for granted became selected and then eloquently objectified as their “unique culture.” But, by the mid-1980s, the more sophisticated fruits of this process began to appear in the form of a modern, liberal, reinvented Shangri-la identity image.

As I have already suggested, the timing of the appearance of new exile identities is also closely linked to Tibetan participation within organized international institutional frameworks. Relating specific ideas of a unique Tibetan culture with identity took place only after this participation, upon gaining access to the resources it made available. It is at these points that specific reflexive, politicized identities started being forged: When nonviolent, pacifist Tibetan identity grew out of international Buddhists for world peace, an eco-friendly Tibetan identity arose out of the new environmental consciousness of world religions, and a gender-equal Tibet came forth from feminist critique.

Once again we can look briefly to the well developed environmentalist Tibetan identity projection for a good insight into this process. Building on increasing links between the ecology movement and world religions in the 1960s and 1970s, a new discourse came into existence that forcefully linked religion with environmentalism. This has been called the “religious environmentalist paradigm,”²⁵ and was made accessible to many groups like exile Tibetans via the founding of a transnational institutional network. Tibetans lagged behind other oppressed or colonized peoples in reflexively representing themselves as ecologically sensitive. Yet from 1985 onward, as soon as the Dharamsala elite began to participate in the growing transnational institutions of the religious environmentalist network, things changed rapidly. In just two years Dharamsala had joined in the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival, the World Wildlife Fund-sponsored Buddhist Perception of Nature project, World Environment Day, and the Assisi Interfaith Ceremony on World Religions and the Environment. Immediately after this the first essential environmentalist Tibetan identities went into print.²⁶

One major irony of the institutionalized mainstreaming of new identity images is that by appealing to the most commonplace of contemporary, liberal representations, the very uniqueness they persistently claim is negated. For example, since the invention of the first “ecological [North American] Indian” by the ecology movement in the late 1960s,²⁷ scores of in-harmony-with-nature identities have appeared. Joining other nonindustrialized populations of Amazon forest peoples, Polynesians, Australian Aborigines, native North Americans, and so on, Tibetans have added themselves to the growing list, which now also includes local and transnational commercial or industrial groups, political parties and politicians, world religions, and many other social movements. In turn, the purpose of promoting oneself with such liberal identities is now becoming transparent to all observers. They are no longer just a signal of commitment to the environment, nonviolence, equality, and so on—they are a specific form of self-marketing. They have much to do with strategic positioning for social, economic, and political advantages and resources within the contemporary world system. Not surprisingly, many such identities are now frequently contested.

There is much more to say on this topic, about which I have been able to give only the briefest introduction herein. A related issue of great interest concerns the way these new Tibetan identity images get encoded into all sorts of larger texts and how they are then spread into local and global media and information networks. I have suggested elsewhere that the Department of Information and International Relations of the Tibetan government-in-exile is nowadays the prime site for this type of activity.²⁸ It is certainly a telling point that many of these identity images first appeared in multiple English texts, before they appeared in Tibetan versions.²⁹ This gives a pretty clear indication of their initial target audience and purpose: as a self-marketing device aimed at the West and a weapon in an ongoing propaganda battle waged against the colonial Chinese state.

Tibetans and the Modern, Liberal Shangri-la

In conclusion, I would like to offer some thoughts about the meaning of these new identities for Tibetan exiles. Tibetan refugees were themselves initially not the intended consumers of these identities. Yet, they have increasingly become exposed to them as they now appear more frequently in the government-in-exile-controlled Tibetan-language media. It is my personal impression that in general they have so far made little impact outside of a very small circle of mostly younger, educated, and articulate cosmopolitan Tibetans, the type of persons with whom Westerners have the most frequent contact. The majority of ordinary refugees—the carpet weavers, farm workers, sweater sellers, small traders, motor mechanics, and the many illiterate or semiliterate Tibetan exiles throughout India and Nepal—have, in my experience, little knowledge of or interest in these new identities emanating out of Dharamsala. In terms of identity, these persons are still often enmeshed in the tenacious internal politics of regionalism and sectarianism. They are far more accustomed to comparing themselves to their Indian or Nepali neighbors with whom they must interact everyday than to projecting a politically correct liberal image to the rest of the world. This situation may slowly change over time, however, if the exile elite keeps environmentalist, peace-loving, and gender-equal Tibetan identities in circulation within the Tibetan exile community, and if the majority of exiles become increasingly mobile and cosmopolitan.

In many instances, new Tibetan exile identity images appear to be just another means by which the exile government can continue to sidestep critical historiography into the future. Heather Stoddard recently observed that “[a] considerable number of new books written in Tibetan … have been censored or banned from publication [by the exile government] because they do not conform to the desired image of traditional Tibetan society. Any serious discussion of history and of possible shortcomings in the society before 1959 is taboo.”³⁰ This type of censorship is fully operational in all new identity image-making. For example, in a recent article I have outlined how elite exile text writers depend upon historical distortion and the editing out of negative evidence to construct environmentalist Tibetan identity images.³¹ In relation to new pacifist Tibetan images, Jamyang Norbu has described how a lack of exile inquiry and scholarship about the Tibetan resistance movement of the 1950s has enabled the government-in-exile to, as he puts it, “successfully rewrite history … fostering the fiction that the popular resistance was nonviolent. Though unhesitatingly subscribed to by many friends of Tibet, this story is patently untrue.”³² Norbu’s clear-minded comments on this matter sum up my own observations about the politics of Dharamsala’s identity industry perfectly: “Tibetan officials, Buddhist followers, Western supporters and intellectuals … regard the resistance movement as an embarrassment … because it somehow detracts from the preferred peace-loving image of Tibet as a Shangri-La.”³³

Just how long the image of Tibet as a Shangri-la will serve the purposes of the present Tibetan exile elite we cannot say. The French philosopher Antoine Cournot once remarked that “we do not resolve difficulties, we merely displace them.” As all elites who, like the Tibetan government-in-exile, work at nation-building seem to discover, the skeletons they have displaced to the closet of unwanted identity and history come back sooner or later to haunt them.


My thanks are due to P. Hansen, D. Lopez, and P. Pedersen for use­ful comments they made on earlier versions of this paper. I also wish to thank several unknown persons attending the conference Mythos Tibet who also made valuable suggestions when the paper was first publicly presented at Bonn in May 1996.  ■


¹ See, for example, Adams’ interesting study of representations of the Sherpas of Nepal (1996a).

² The result of contacts with the modern West has likely been an active although, prior to the diaspora, limited aspect of Tibetan identity representation since the turn of the century, when British colonial diplomats and others began courting the Tibetan political and religious elite in Central Tibet itself. How outsiders’ representations of Tibet might have influenced Tibetan self-representations in the past remains a question for investigation, cf. Lopez (1995b, 1996) and Hansen (in this volume).

³ See Appaduri, 1991.

⁴ For a detailed assessment of new environmentalist Tibetan exile images, see Huber, 1997.

⁵ Anon., 1995: 3; my translation from the German.

⁶ For a range of alternative versions in both English and Tibetan, cf. the relevant passages in Anon., 1994: 7, Atisha, 1991, 1994, Department of Information and International Relations, 1992: section 1.9, Namgyal, 1994: 29, Rowell, 1990: 11, Vigoda, 1989, Yeshi, 1991, and Yuthok, 1992.

⁷ Yuthok, 1992: 1.

⁸ Editor’s introduction, 1994; my translation from the Tibetan.

⁹ Atisha, 1991: 9.

¹⁰ Dalai Lama, 1990b: 81; cf. also fig. 16 and caption in Adams (1996a: 162) for a link between these types of statements and those made by Westerners but deployed by contemporary Tibetans.

¹¹ On the New Age movement and Tibet, see Lopez, 1994.

¹² Bechert, 1984: 275-77.

¹³ See Harris, 1991: 110-11, and on intellectual interest in Buddhism and nature in the 1970s, see Samartha and de Silva, 1979.

¹⁴ Bechert, 1984: 284.

¹⁵ Ibid., 285.

¹⁶ Norbu, 1994: 193.

¹⁷ Breckenridge and van der Veer, 1993.

¹⁸ Abu Lugod, 1991: 144.

¹⁹ Stoddard, 1994: 154. Gandhi’s works were of course very influential in many movements. For example, on Gandhi in relation to the links between Buddhism and environmentalism, see Kantowsky, 1980, Macy, 1985, and also Ariyaratne and Macy, 1992 on the Sarvodaya movement in Sri Lanka and Kvaloy, 1987.

²⁰ See, for example, Dalai Lama, 1990b: 80 and 1983: 224.

²¹ Shakya, 1994: 4, cf. Bishop, 1989.

²² See Dalai Lama, 1990: 87; cf. Rowell, 1990: 11.

²³ See Lohmann, 1993 and Huber, 1997; cf. Ellen, 1986 and Sackett, 1991.

²⁴ See Linton, 1943.

²⁵ Pedersen, 1995.

²⁶ For details, see Huber, 1997.

²⁷ See Martin, 1978: 157; cf. Vecsey, 1980.

²⁸ For details, see Huber, 1997.

²⁹ Cf. Stoddard, 1994: 150, 153, on the Tibetan exile preference for English.

³⁰ Stoddard, 1994: 152. The recurring problems associated with developing a Tibetan exile “free press” as an alternative voice to the government-controlled print media is a further indication of this ongoing intolerance and censorship. The recent independent Dharamsala-based Tibetan-language newspaper Mangtso (dMang gtso) ceased production in early 1996 just at the point where it was growing widely in popularity. In an open letter to its Western subscribers explaining the closure, Mangtso editors explicitly identified negative pressure and harassment from elements within the government-in-exile as being instrumental.

³¹ Huber, 1997.

³² Norbu, 1994: 188.

³³ Ibid., 195-96.


TONI HUBER is Professor at the Humboldt Universität Berlin (Germany). His teaching and research fields are Anthropology and Cultural History of Tibet and Himalayan Areas.

© Toni Huber, Thierry Dodin & Heinz Räther, Wisdom Publications

This paper was published in Thierry Dodin and Heinz Raether (eds.), Imagining Tibet - Perceptions, Projections, and Fantasies, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2001, pp. 357-371.

Most of the essays in this book are based on papers presented at the International Symposium Mythos Tibet held in Bonn, Germany, in May 1996. This symposium was organized by the editors of the book in collaboration with the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn.

Offered with kind permission from the publisher and Thierry Dodin.

Header image: © Michael A. Himalaya range, Sidhpur, Dharamsala, India, 2014.