The article ‘“Truth”, Perception, and Politics: The British Construction of an Image of Tibet by Alex McKay focuses on the presence of the British Empire on Tibet and the perception of the latter. This paper aims at providing a critical analysis of the above article.
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Since 1720, Tibet was considered a vassal possession of the Celestial Empire (McKay 68). However, its political and economic ties with China were relatively weak. The actual ruler of Tibet was the spiritual leader of the Buddhists Dalai Lama. The British government decided to send troops to protect British India from Russian infiltration. The diplomatic leadership of the expedition was entrusted to Colonel Younghusband, and the command of the troops – to General McDonald. The early images associated with Tibet referred to something mystical and unexplored as both sides tried to limit the invasion into Tibet. Furthermore, the author presents “truth” perception by claiming that a “civilizing mission” helped Britain to understand the local population. Namely, they observed a unique and rather developed culture with a strong spirituality.
The author of the identified article also mentions a political factor that largely affected the image of Tibet. During its political independence, Tibet had to withdraw from the state of isolation in foreign policy, which necessitated the development of priorities in the latter and, in fact, its new perception. In turn, China, Great Britain, the Russian Empire, and a number of other countries had their own interests in an already independent Tibet. Only England managed to establish special informal relations with Tibet, the consequences of which continued to affect even after China seized the Tibetan territory. For example, this was expressed in providing thousands of Tibetan refugees with political asylum in British India and creating conditions for the preservation of their traditional culture.
The core image of Tibet is a sovereign state characterized as friendly and admirable for British Empire. Censorship is another feature the author mentions in his document as it embraced many spheres of life. The mystical perception of Tibet remained to some extent even after the establishment of proper relationships between two identified states.
The given article is organized properly according to the standard points, including introduction, body, and conclusion. A reader may easily track the author’s ideas and conclusions evolving in the work. However, the article lacks an abstract that seems to be important to allow readers review the article’s main issues. The author provides significant evidence to support his statements. For example, the scholar notes some historical events, dates, and persons to present the changing perception of Tibet by British. However, it should be stressed that there are no references to credible sources. The reference list is also absent, and a reader has no opportunity to go further and access the sources used by the author. Even though evidence seems to be sufficient, its reliability cannot be verified. There is no sample since the article is not an empirical study. One may argue that it is relevant and representative enough to understand the core theme. More to the point, the article outlines not only British ties with Tibet but also its connections with Russia, China, and other countries.
The primary purpose of this article is to show how the perception of Tibet changed over time beginning with the British invasion and ending with support of Tibetans while they needed help.
Considering the above primary purpose of the article, it is possible to state that it fully achieved the goal posed by the author since the presentation of a Tibetan image is complete. The purpose is actually worthwhile as it is important to learn about other cultures, especially about those that were significantly affected by the other one as in case of Great Britain and Tibet. The evidence collected and mentioned by the author is particularly strong. He lists all the key events, so that readers observe a full picture. The mentioned topic may be explored further to clarify the relationships between the local population and British or identify any biases, for example.
All the sections are properly explained, and it is quite easy to understand them. At the same time, every area of the article contains enough information to make certain conclusions. The organization of the article is the main aspect that helps to understand the author’s claims and ideas. If it was not so clear, then a reader might be confused. The language of the article also contributes to the article’s integrity and comprehensiveness. The author uses the words that are not too simple or not too complicated, thus making the work readable for both scholars and average readers interested in the topic.
To conclude, it should be emphasized that this article is rather interesting to read due to proper organization, language, and a good flow of ideas. The assumptions made by the author are relevant and representative. Even though the sources used in the article are not clearly identified, the work looks credible and contributes to the existing evidence regarding Tibet’s images and perceptions.
McKay, Alex. ‘“Truth”, Perception, and Politics: The British Construction of an Image of Tibet.” Imagining Tibet: Perceptions, Projections, and Fantasies, edited by Thierry Dodin, and Räther Heinz, 2001, 67–90.