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Zizek on Tibet, a correction?

July 30th, 2008 · 1 Comment

Daniel Miller: Slavoj Žižek’s newest book may cause readers to conclude that the superstar philosopher has misplaced his marbles.

In early June the Slovenian philosopher, self-proclaimed Stalinist and academic superstar Slavoj Žižek was roundly upbraided in the letters pages of the London Review of Books for the second time in a year. Last November, the provocation was his 1,700-word article declaiming the futility of nonviolent resistance and proclaiming the virtues of ruthless militarism. This time, it was a 1,200-word letter attacking Orientalist fantasies surrounding Tibet and defending the virtues of China’s civilizing mission there. Each occasion was a farce in three acts. In the first the audience was treated to a dive into unfamiliar waters. The second was dominated by Žižek suddenly finding himself out of his depth. And in the culminating third, we all took off our hats to the bathos of a man being carried away on his back, like a turtle with its legs waving in the air.
“I base my claim that Tibet before 1949 was an oppressive and corrupted feudal society,” Žižek would eventually say, “on by far the best and most extensive study of the Tibetan legal system, Rebecca Redwood French’s The Golden Yoke: The Legal Cosmology of Buddhist Tibet (1995).” Yet “I am afraid that Professor Slavoj Žižek has misunderstood my book entirely,” Rebecca Redwood French would later tell me via e-mail. “I do not and have not ever represented Tibet pre-1949 as an oppressive and corrupted feudal society. On the contrary, I think that China’s current occupation of Tibet is colonial, oppressive and completely illegal under any national or international legal system.”

Tags: Tibet

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