Informative Travels: historicization. hybridity, and local determinism in Iyer’s Falling Off the Map, Seth’s From Heaven Lake, and Ghosh’s Dancing in Cambodia, at Large in Burma
Abstract: Travel writing has played an active role in the discourse of colonialism and the aggrandizements of European empires since the Renaissance. In her book Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Multiculturalism, noted critic Mary Louise Pratt observes that the sentimental travel writings which accompany colonial appropriations functioned as a way of capital infiltrations into the ‘contact zone’ and that even passive European travel writers rely on and extend the reach of colonizing structures. She also observes that the passive travel writers go through a form of anti-conquest based on reciprocity, which function as spreading points of the imperialist economy into the textual landscape of the ‘contact zone’. But the revisions brought about in episteme by poststructuralism (more specifically post-colonialism) over the last fifty years have problematized older – or traditional – methods of representation of the ‘contact zone’ in travel-writing. By looking at travel pieces by Pico Iyer, Vikram Seth, and Amitav Gosh in the context of arguments and theories developed by critics such as Said, Bhabha, Lyotard, Pratt, etc., I propose to show how the new hybridized travel writers consciously historicize the ‘contact zones’ they write on (making them texts-in-context), represent the ubiquitous hybrid or mutt presences, and show a form of local determinism and resistance which fits within what Lyotard dubs postmodern paralogy.
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Published in Fall 2010-11