ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Class, Gender, Race, and Muslimness in the Production of Muslim South Asia’s Safarnama

The World in Words: Travel Writing and the Global Imagination in Muslim South Asia by Daniel Joseph Majchrowicz, London: Cambridge University Press, 2023; pp 300, `1,295.

The opportunity for travel is often reserved for the privileged in highly stratified societies. During 19th-century England, the most romanticised and celebrated figure was that of the global flâneur—a male traveller who documented his experiences while exploring different places. It was through travel and travel writing that the image of “man the wanderer” was constructed, reinforced and normalised through literary movements. In doing so, travel was seen as the prerogative of the man. It was depicted to be a male activity. For instance, the French poet Charles Baudelaire’s 1863 essay, “The Painter of Modern Life,” constructed the figure of the “passionate spectator” who indulged in aimless walking and enjoyed a kind of invisibility that was a male privilege—“to be the centre of the world and yet to remain hidden from the world.” A question that naturally arises here is whether there were female travellers or flaneuses. The answer to this question is in the affirmative. Women too were travellers, but it was the politics of gender segregation that limited the roles and depiction of women in the public sphere. The writings that emerged with such travelling showed people’s engagement with the world. The emergence of Urdu travel writing in South Asia contributed to the production of a global imagination.

In his book, The World in WordsTravel Writing and the Global Imagination in Muslim South Asia, historian Daniel Joseph Majchrowicz engages with Urdu travel writing that emerged between 1840 and 1990 to show Muslim South Asia’s aspirational global imagination. This medium was a way “to share their views and visions with readers and listeners back home” (p 3). The socially constructed categories of a male and a female traveller were implicated in the discourses of nation, nationalism, community, and belonging with Urdu’s transition from an “Islamicate” to an “Islamic” language in the late 19th century.

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Updated On : 25th Oct, 2023
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