Tangled Encounters with the Indian Other: English Women Travel Writers Confronting India
Abstract: The travel narratives of Emily Eden (1797- 1869) and Fanny Parkes (1794-1875), depicting their extensive travel through India, provide valuable insights into the initial encounter in the first half of the nineteenth century between the Europeans and the native Indians from a female perspective. The narratives, which comprise Eden’s letters Up the Country (1867) and Parkes’ journal Wanderings of a Pilgrim (1850), reveal the competing discourses of gender and imperialism at work that create tensions and ambivalences within the texts. On the one hand, the women as English travelers represented colonial power, but on the other hand, their gender placed them within a secondary or weaker position within the power discourse. Thus they wrote from a liminal position and their descriptions of their encounters with the colonial Other are fraught with anxiety and fractures. These travel narratives present an alternate view to empire building, and they manifest a complicated negotiation with Orientalism, evident in their use of the picturesque and in the moments when Eden and Parkes write about meeting Indian women. This paper argues that even though the women travel writers reinforce the dominant imperial and orientalist view, yet at times, they break away from the hegemony of monolithic Orientalism to present more personal and nuanced responses to India and Indians.
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Published in December 2015