To the Editor:
We were disappointed but not surprised to find that the only coverage of Oberlin Students for a Free Tibet's Tibet Awareness Week (April 12-21) was a photograph of the Seraje monks' Wild Life Tamed Mind performance, with no article. This continues what now appears to be a trend in the Review's coverage of Tibetan issues on campus: focusing on the "exotic" appeal of Tibetan culture and the celebrities who support the Tibetan cause, while ignoring the more substantial issues which we are addressing. Last semester, we wrote a letter to the editor commenting on the Review's failure to cover the First National Students for a Free Tibet which we organized and hosted in October. This letter, unfortunately, continues that tradition.
The Review's total coverage of last semester's national conference and this semester's Tibet Awareness Week was three photos with captions but no articles: one of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, and two depicting the Seraje monks' performance. An uninformed reader might gather from this meager coverage that Oberlin Students for a Free Tibet is primarily interested in rubbing elbows with philanthropic celebrities and cute monks in costumes. Yet this is precisely the essentialized characterization of Tibetan issues which we are fighting against! Though performing monks and celebrities such as Adam Yauch are successful at attracting large crowds to Tibet-related events, they are not representative of our more important work, which the Review fails to cover. The Review did not mention a talk by Donald Lopez called "Orientalism and the Case of Tibet," which framed exotified portrayals of Tibet, such as the one propogated by the Review, in the context of essentialist European categorizations of Asian cultures to facilitate colonialist domination. The Review failed to mention a lecture by Melvyn Goldstein which discussed the question of Tibet in terms of Chinese and Tibetan internal politics and international diplomacy. The Review's only "coverage" of a talk by Chimi Thonden, a member of the Tibetan delegation to the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing who assessed the situation of Tibetan women in Tibet and in exile, was a photograph of Thonden and two students, erroneously labelled: "Drug dilemma: Students discuss drug awareness at a forum as part of Drug Awareness Week." Even if we disregard this careless mistake (unfortuanately, not a rare occurence for the Review), the Review's coverage of Tibetan issues on campus has been limited to photographs of celebrities and costumed monks, no articles.
Judging from the coverage Oberlin Students for a Free Tibet receives in the Review, we must be a fairly minor student organization. Yet our national and international reputation is tremendous. The First Ever National Students for a Free Tibet conference we organized last October has had many direct and far-reaching consequences, such as national Students for a Free Tibet's economic action and divestment campaigns, and the formation of numerous Students for a Free Tibet chapters at institutions such as Williams, Brown and Carnegie-Mellon. Our members are invited to speak at national conferences on topics ranging from economic action to socially engaged Buddhism. Many of our members participate in Tibet-related conferences and rallies throughout the country. In short, Oberlin Students for a Free Tibet is respected nationwide as a dynamic leader in the Tibet movement. Yet one would be entirely unaware of this from reading the Oberlin Review. We hope the Review will increase its coverage of Tibetan issues on campus beyond the exotic, contextless photographs it prints now; perhaps then, our tradition of critical letters to the editor might end too!
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 23; May 3, 1996
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