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Journeys to the Other Shore

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

Roxanne L. Euben
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Journeys to the Other Shore
    Book Description:

    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 Shorechallenges 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 novelPersian Lettersmeets 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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2749-7
    Subjects: History, Anthropology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Chapter 1 FRONTIERS: WALLS AND WINDOWS Some Reflections on Travel Narratives
    (pp. 1-19)

    In a globalized world grown smaller by progressively dizzying flows of people, knowledge, and information, ʺtravelʺ 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.¹ 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 ʺcontact zones,ʺ sites that articulate the preconditions and implications of cross-cultural encounters.²

    In a geopolitical...

    (pp. 20-45)

    In his monumental history of India (1817), British philosopher James Mill devotes more than two-thirds of the preface to refuting the charge that a man who has never visited the subcontinent or learned its languages is unsuited to the task of writing Indian history. Mill insists that what some might regard as parochialism is in fact a virtue, for his critical faculties and judiciousness require insulation from the ʺpartial impressionsʺ and distortions characteristic of firsthand sense perception. He writes:

    Whatever is worth seeing or hearing in India, can be expressed in writing. As soon as every thing of importance is...

    (pp. 46-89)

    This is a chapter about liars. Or at least about two travelers, Herodotus and Ibn Battuta, consistently accused of lying. Cicero may have dubbed Herodotus the Father of History, but Thucydides repudiated entirely Herodotusʹs approach to the past, accusing him of fabrication and telling tall tales.² In the wake of Thucydidesʹ damning verdict, impugning Herodotusʹs reliability became, for a time, a veritable cottage industry. Some characterized him as ignorant or overly credulous; others would accuse him of malicious intent. Plutarch, for example, charged Herodotus with undue partiality to both the non-Greeks (philobarbaros—lover/friend of barbarians) and Athens, along with an...

  8. Chapter 4 TRAVEL IN SEARCH OF PRACTICAL WISDOM: The Modern Theôriai of al-Tahtawi and Tocqueville
    (pp. 90-133)

    In Alexandria on April 13, 1826, a twenty-four-year old Egyptian by the name of Rifa‘a Rafi‘ al-Tahtawi boarded the French shipLa Truitebound for Marseilles.¹ Al-Tahtawi was joined on board by forty-four others selected by Egypt's leader, Muhammad ‘Ali (d.1849), to be part of a student mission to Paris. Due to the efforts of a well-placed mentor, al-Tahtawi had landed the enviable position ofimam(religious leader) to the mission, one of the first of many such excursions engineered by the ambitious Muhammad ‘Ali in his quest to acquire new European knowledge. Trained at al-Azhar, Egypt's preeminent mosque and...

  9. Chapter 5 GENDER, GENRE, AND TRAVEL: Montesquieu and Sayyida Salme
    (pp. 134-173)

    Odysseus may be the hero ʺwho has traveled a great deal . . . see[ing] the cities of men and learn[ing] their minds,ʺ¹ but it is the immobility and fidelity of his wife Penelope that frame his voyage. And it is Penelope who, literally and figuratively, reproduces this masculine journey when, in FénelonʹsTelemachus, her son departs in search of Odysseus, leaving her behind once again to endlessly reenact her virtue by refusing a phalanx of suitors. So thoroughly is travel materially and symbolically masculinized that Eric Leed terms it the ʺspermatic journey,ʺ opposing it to the feminization of ʺsessility,ʺ...

    (pp. 174-198)

    An exploration of cross-cultural travels of the past from the perspective of the present is a comparison across history. As such, it offers a vantage from which to reflect critically on characterizations of the contemporary age in terms of mobilities and displacements said to be unprecedented both in scope and kind. We are all now said to live in a world in which ʺborders have stopped marking the limits where politics ends because the community ends,ʺ our identities not only shaped by particular places and spaces such as nation and domicile but subject to the multiple cross-currents and exposures created...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 199-266)
    (pp. 267-270)
    (pp. 271-302)
  14. Index
    (pp. 303-313)