Nowhere is this fetishist logic more evident than apropos of Tibet, one of the central references of the post-Christian "spiritual" imaginary. Today, Tibet more and more plays the role of such a fantasmatic Thing, of a jewel which, when one approaches it too much, turns into the excremental object. It is a commonplace to claim that the fascination exerted by Tibet on the Western imagination, especially on the broad public in the US, provides an exemplary case of the "colonization of the imaginary." It reduces the actual Tibet to a screen for the projection of Western ideological fantasies. (http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/2/western.php Slavoj Zizek, "From Western Marxism to Western Buddhism")

I am a bit confused. Isn't imaginary the world before language? So how can imginary be colonized? And how can this "Tibet" world fantasy be in imginary?

Plus: I do not know why, but suddenly, there are so many talks of Slavoj Zizek and critical theory.... Is Slavoj Zizek that famous?

1 Answer 1


Is Slavoj Zizek that famous?

He most surely is, Zizek has had appearances on authors @ google, a public 'debate with Julian Assange, has been the focus of 2 (soon to be 3) feature length documentaries, and is a fairly constant feature in news media in its many forms. Monikers such as 'the academic rock star' or 'the most dangerous philosopher in the West' illustrate just how difficult it is for both popular and alternative media to ignore Zizek.

Isn't imaginary the world before language?

this is not the case. At the website for Lacanian ink, a publication which Zizek has contributed a great deal to, it gives the following as an introduction:

The basis of the imaginary order is the formation of the ego in the "mirror stage". Since the ego is formed by identifying with the counterpart or specular image, "identification" is an important aspect of the imaginary. The relationship whereby the ego is constituted by identification is a locus of "alienation", which is another feature of the imaginary, and is fundamentally narcissistic. The imaginary, a realm of surface appearances which are deceptive, is structured by the symbolic order. It also involves a linguistic dimension: whereas the signifier is the foundation of the symbolic, the "signified" and "signification" belong to the imaginary. Thus language has both symbolic and imaginary aspects. Based on the specular image, the imaginary is rooted in the subject's relationship to the body (the image of the body).


So how can imginary be colonized? And how can this "Tibet" world fantasy be in imginary?

I think a simple answer would be that through Zizek's inheritance of the notion of the imaginary from Lacan, it is in a way possible to say that the entirity of unconscious content in some way has 'colonial' origins (as opposed to 'native' or purely intrinsic). The primacy of what is other in Lacan over innate knowledge and ways of knowing is key to understanding the 3 registers of real, symbolic and imaginary.

From http://www.lacan.com/zizek-daly.htm:

Ideology does not conceal or distort an underlying reality (human nature, social interests etc.) but rather reality itself cannot be reproduced without ideological mystification (Zizek, 1989: 28). What ideology offers is the symbolic construction of reality - the ultimate fantasy - as a way to escape the traumatic effects of the Real.

So from this perspective a person's grasp of what Tibet 'is' endures inside a space in subjectivity which is structured by these phantasmatic reproductions.

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