Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Welcome to Overlooking Tibet

Welcome readers. Overlooking Tibet developed out of reflections on the problematic, disempowering ways non-Tibetans, myself included, often behave towards Tibetans, and a hope to make discussion of the topic an everyday activity for well-intentioned outsiders whose work and lives intersect with Tibet. The subject and format are inspired by one of my favorite blogs, Stuff White People Do, but with a focus specifically on Tibet.

I'm new to this, and I expect to make mistakes, but that doesn't absolve me of responsibility for what I write and do. When I've behaved problematically, call me out on it. OT is meant as a safe space for Tibetans to discuss and be listened to and respected. I've drafted a list of commenting guidelines, inspired by those of SWPD, by which I am moderating comments.

In addition to myself, Overlooking Tibet has several regular contributors who will be writing, and I welcome guest contributions.


  1. It is a nice topic and I hope it will create a constructive discussion about the influence of well intentioned non-tibetans on the Tibetan society as a whole. I am myself a Tibetan living in States and I must say I do not represent a typical tibetan that a westerner would have in mind. I don't like being stereotyped as a poor, naive and uneducated peace-loving person. I appreciate their views of Tibetans as humble but like any other society, ours is far from perfect too.
    Just being a Tibetan buddhist doesn't mean that I should be expected extra-good. It is not about being good that I detest, rather the expectations of being good as a Tibetan.I don't know if I am making any sense here but my point is not that I want to be bad or I am bad. I just fear that I might not live up to someone's expectations and I don't think that being Tibetan or being any nationality has anything to do with goodness.
    Accept my apology if my comment disappoints anyone here.

    May all the sentient beings be free from sufferings! OM MANI PADME HUN

  2. BhuZigpo, I think your comment brings up a huge issue, so I'm really glad to see it here.

    I think its racist for anyone to assume that people should act in a certain manner to conform with our idea of their race. And yes, that includes assuming that Tibetans should act like saints because we have this 'shangrila' mentality, of "poor, naive and uneducated peace-loving person" as you so eloquently put it! To assume that you should act a certain way because of your race is RACIST. That's all it is. We would say the same if we assumed that all Arabs were terrorists, because of their religion (A common assumption in the states...). So why is it OK to assume that all Tibetans should act a certain way because of theirs?

  3. Welcome to OT, BhuZikpo. I think there's a major misconception among people who engage in stereotyping that it does no harm if the stereotype is "positive". But that ignores the unfair pressures to conform to the stereotype. It also means white people get to be individuals whereas everyone else has to be a representative of their race.

    I noticed too that the stereotype you described doesn't really seem to be all that positive - you included things like "naive", "poor", and "uneducated". I think that means its just plain racist.

  4. Brings this all back to the entire "model minority" stereotype.

  5. Thank you to the creators of this blog! As a non-Tibetan who has been heavily involved with the Tibetan independence movement for many years, I'm really excited for the discussions on privilege and oppression within the non-Tibetan world of Tibet that I hope this blog will spark. I look forward to reading more!

  6. Dont know how I reached this blog. But I am glad I did. I am a Tibetan living in Europe and I am fascinated by what you guys are talking about here.

    It is a tricky subject, westerner's perspective about Tibet and Tibetans. I think there is invariably going to be a lot of generalisation. Yet as we say in Tibetan, Kha sang na lam sang...

    best wishes,


  7. Welcome to OT, tenam!

    Yeah, there will be a lot of generalization going on here. If someone here (myself, another post author, or a commenter) is writing about a bad tendency outsiders exhibit towards Tibetans, I hope other outsiders reading it can be mature enough to take it as it is - as a trend that happens often enough, and which causes enough problems, that it's worth discussing. There's no need to take it personally as if an accusation is being made against ALL outsiders. But I think it's also important for all of us outsiders to consider the possibility that we do exhibit these trends, or related behaviors, even if we're not aware of it.

  8. For examples of someone taking it personally...see the early posts. Hahaha.

    Hi Tenam and welcome to OT. Neither Pongu nor I have a lot experience with the non-tib communities involved with Tibet in Europe. I'd be really interested to hear from you about if stuff is the same, different, how. I hope you will leave some comments. I'm especially interested since I know there are a few schools that do intensive Tibetology in several countries in Europe, so I wonder if that changes the dynamic as well.

    Anyway, I hope to hear from you in the future!


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