Writing Travel in Central Asian History

Writing Travel in Central Asian History

Writing Travel in Central Asian History

Writing Travel in Central Asian History

Synopsis

For centuries, travelers have made Central Asia known to the wider world through their writings. In this volume, scholars employ these little-known texts in a wide range of Asian and European languages to trace how Central Asia was gradually absorbed into global affairs. The representations of the region brought home to China and Japan, India and Persia, Russia and Great Britain, provide valuable evidence that helps map earlier periods of globalization and cultural interaction.

Excerpt

Nile Green

From a Silk Road to a Road of Texts

From the medieval Divisament dou monde of Marco Polo to the modernist prose of Robert Byron’s The Road to Oxiana, Central Asia has been made known to the wider world through the medium of travel writing. At a time when Central Asia is increasingly drawn into global political affairs, such travel writings allow us to map the cultural dimensions of an earlier geopolitics that ranges from Qing Chinese empire builders to Russian missionaries and Japanese archaeologists. By reading the polyglottal prose written at the crossroads of Asia, the following chapters trace distinct stages of global connectivity by joining the early modern age of camel caravans and horsemen with the modern age of railroads and motorcars. Focusing on little-known travel writings of literary and ethnographic no less than historical interest, the chapters explore the different meanings given to Central Asia in the far corners of the world during the region’s most intensive periods of globalization between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries. By framing Central Asia as a cultural contact zone between different peoples and polities as much as a transit zone for material commodities such as silk, cotton, and oil, this book aims to connect Central Asia to the larger field of global history. The aim here is to add new layers to our understanding of both Central Asia and globalization, giving due recognition to the shifting politics and fluctuating trade patterns of the region but asking how these “hard” developments were inseparable from the cultural productions of the travelers who were globalization in human terms—and vice versa, for as we will see in the following chapters, neither the commerce nor politics of . . .

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