Journeys to the Other Shore: Muslim and Western Travelers in Search of Knowledge

Journeys to the Other Shore: Muslim and Western Travelers in Search of Knowledge

Journeys to the Other Shore: Muslim and Western Travelers in Search of Knowledge

Journeys to the Other Shore: Muslim and Western Travelers in Search of Knowledge


The contemporary world is increasingly defined by dizzying flows of people and ideas. But while Western travel is associated with a pioneering spirit of discovery, the dominant image of Muslim mobility is the jihadi who travels not to learn but to destroy. Journeys to the Other Shore challenges these stereotypes by charting the common ways in which Muslim and Western travelers negotiate the dislocation of travel to unfamiliar and strange worlds. In Roxanne Euben's groundbreaking excursion across cultures, geography, history, genre, and genders, travel signifies not only a physical movement across lands and cultures, but also an imaginative journey in which wonder about those who live differently makes it possible to see the world differently.

In the book we meet not only Herodotus but also Ibn Battuta, the fourteenth-century Moroccan traveler. Tocqueville's journeys are set against a five-year sojourn in nineteenth-century Paris by the Egyptian writer and translator Rifa'a Rafi' al-Tahtawi, and Montesquieu's novel Persian Letters meets with the memoir of an East African princess, Sayyida Salme.

This extraordinary book shows that curiosity about the unknown, the quest to understand foreign cultures, critical distance from one's own world, and the desire to remake the foreign into the familiar are not the monopoly of any single civilization or epoch. Euben demonstrates that the fluidity of identities, cultures, and borders associated with our postcolonial, globalized world has a long history--one shaped not only by Western power but also by an Islamic ethos of travel in search of knowledge.


Because many people of diverse nations and coun
tries delight and take pleasure, as I have done in
times past, in seeing the world and the various
things therein, and also because many want to know
without traveling there, and others want to see, go,
and travel, I have begun this little book.

—Gilles Le Bouvier, Le Livre de la Description
des Pays (1908)

IN A GLOBALIZED world grown smaller by progressively dizzying flows of people, knowledge, and information, “travel” seems to have become the image of the age. Porous borders, portable allegiances, virtual networks, and elastic identities now more than ever evoke the language of mobility, contingency, fluidity, provisionality, and process rather than that of stability, permanence, and fixity. Scholars who traffic in the lingo of deterritorialization and nomadism increasingly traverse disciplines and regions, mining disparate experiences of displacement such as tourism, diaspora, exile, cyberculture, and migration as “contact zones,” sites that articulate the preconditions and implications of cross-cultural encounters.

In a geopolitical landscape scarred by colonialism and the workings of global capital, however, such encounters often proceed under conditions of radical inequality between and within regions, cultures, nations, and transnational and subnational communities. The corrosive consequences of such real and perceived disparities of power are evident in daily newspaper headlines around the world, demanding and receiving attention if not redress. The events of September 11, 2001, the U.S.-led war on terrorism, and growing opposition to it have galvanized interest in the haunting of contemporary politics by grievances rooted in poorly understood historical narratives of marginalization and persecution. Long a feature of political discourse within postcolonial societies, such grievances and narratives now press on European and American political consciousness in unprecedented ways. What . . .

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