Towards the (Im)Probable Ecocentric Encounter. Isabella Lucy Bird amongst the Tibetans
Copyright (c) 2021 Emanuela Ettorre
Questo lavoro è fornito con la licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 4.0 Internazionale.
The aim of this paper is to investigate the way in which Isabella Bird tries to overcome her preconceived ideas of what constitutes the South as exotic “other”; ideas that, at first, shape her response to her encounter with the Tibetan people. There is a sort of masculine, dominant voice at work in her writing that often pervades her descriptions of peoples and places, a voice that is entangled with culture-bound colonial discourses of Englishness, even though her travelling experience offers a compelling example of a woman who resists discriminatory ideas about class, race, gender and civilization. Among the Tibetans illustrates the dualistic tensions that inform Isabella Bird’s life and writing, and it embodies her continuing struggle to overcome a dominant perspective. Despite her initial difficulty in presenting Tibet and the Tibetans as anything other than a projection of conventional Western ways of seeing and thinking, there are moments in the travelogue when she cuts away the clichés, and provides the reader with less structured, more immediate insights into her sense of place, her entanglement with the reality around her, and her attempts to establish a vital relationship with the non-human. It is because of the importance she attaches to these “earthly sensuous” experiences in nature that she succeeds in challenging her own ethnocentric and anthropocentric bias, thereby rediscovering an open-minded capacity for wonder, and an ecocentric grasp of this world’s constitutive importance.