Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Week 18. Counterflows: Travellers from the Majority World

From the late eighteenth century onwards, increasing numbers of Asian, African, and indigenous travellers made the journey to Europe and wrote about their observations and experiences. Often described as "counterflows" to European colonial mobility, travellers from the majority world have received increasing attention as subjects engaged in "reversing the gaze" or "writing back". Focusing on two South Asian, a West African, and an African American traveller, this seminar examines the circumstances of their journeys, how they experienced Britain/Europe as outsiders looking in, and how they reported to audiences back home.

Core Readings

Siobhan Lambert-Hurley and Sunil Sharma, Atiya's Journeys: A Muslim Woman from Colonial Bombay to Edwardian Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 'Introduction', pp. 1-10, and Chapter 4: 'Narrating the Everyday', pp. 83-96. Link.

Moses Ochonu, 'Colonial Itineraries: Muhammadu Dikko's Metropolitan Adventures', Journal of African History 61.2 (2020), pp. 179-200. Link.

Primary sources (read at least one)

Abu Taleb Khan, 'Vindication of the Liberties of the Asiatic Women' (1801), in: Travels of Mirza Abu Taleb Khan in Asia, Africa, and Europe, during the years 1799, 1800, 1801, 1802, and 1803 (London: 1814), pp. 258-283. Link.

Atiya Fizee-Rahamin, Zamana-i-tahsil [A Time of Education] (1922), in: Siobhan Lambert-Hurley and Sunil Sharma (eds.), Atiya's Journeys: A Muslim Woman from Colonial Bombay to Edwardian Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 109-216. Link. [Read a section of choice].

W.E.B. Dubois, ‘What of the Color-Line?’, in: Oliver Lubrich (ed.), Travels in the Reich, 1933-1945: Foreign Authors Report from Germany (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2010), pp. 135-151. Link.

NB: You can also browse Empire Online for accounts of Indian travellers (examples include Doss (1893), Malabari (1895), and Pillai (1897), see below).

Seminar Questions

  1. For what purposes did colonial subjects travel to the imperial metropole?
  2. How useful are concepts of "counterflows" and "writing back" for understanding travellers such as Abu Taleb Khan, Atiya Fizee and Muhammad Dikko?
  3. Did “colonially-scripted travel” (Ochonu, p. 180) necessarily serve colonial interests?

  4. Which insights can we draw from Atiya Fyzee's narrating of the everyday experience of Edwardian Britain?
  5. How does Abu Taleb Khan's 'Vindication' reverse the ethnographic gaze? What does it tell about the relationship between the society he was from and the one he wrote about?
  6. Which factors shaped W.E.B. Dubois's perception of racial discrimination in Nazi Germany?

Further Reading

Adi, Hakim, West Africans in Britain 1900-1960: Nationalism, Pan-Africanism and Communism (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1998). Link.

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin (eds.), The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures (London: Routledge, 2003). Link.

Boehmer, Elleke, Indian Arrivals, 1870-1915: Networks of British Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), Ch. 1: 'Passages to England: Suez, the Indian Pathway', pp. 32-72. Link.

Burton, Antoinette, At the Heart of the Empire: Indians and the Colonial Encounter in Late-Victorian Britain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998). Link.

Dabashi, Hamid, Reversing the Colonial Gaze: Persian Travelers Abroad (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020). Link.

Day, Jenny Huangfu, Qing Travelers to the Far West: Diplomacy and the Information Order in Late Imperial China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). Link.

Doss, N.L. [Nandalala Dasa], Reminiscences, English and Australasian: Being an Account of a Visit to England, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Ceylon, &c. (Calcutta: 1893). Link.

Fisher, Michael H., 'Early Indian Travel Guides to Britain', in: Tim Youngs (ed.), Travel Writing in the Nineteenth Century: Filling the Blank Spaces (London: Anthem Press, 2006), pp. 87-106. Link.

Fisher, Michael H., 'From India to England and Back: Early Indian Travel Narratives for Indian Readers', The Huntington Library Quarterly 70.1 (2007), pp. 153-172. Link.

Garcia, Humberto, England Re-Oriented: How Central and South Asian Travelers Imagined the West, 1750–1857 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020). Link.

Green, Nile, The Love of Strangers: What Six Muslim Students Learned in Jane Austen's London (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016). Link.

Jones, Rebecca, At the Crossroads: Nigerian Travel Writing and Literary Culture in Yoruba and English (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2019), Ch. 1: 'African Travel Writing: Genres of Writing and Forms of Travel', pp. 27-56. Link.

Jones, Rebecca, ‘The Benefits of Travel: Travel Writing in the Lagos Newspapers, 1912-1931’, Journal of History and Cultures 2 (2013), pp. 39-56. Link.

Khair, Tabish, 'A Multiplicity Of Mirrors: Europe and Modernity in Travel Writing from Asia and Africa', Indian Literature 52.6 (2008), pp. 211-222. Link.

Khazeni, Arash, 'Indo-Persian Travel Writing at the Ends of the Mughal World', Past & Present 243.1 (2019), pp. 141-174. Link.

Majchrowicz, Daniel, 'Malika Begum’s Mehfil: The Lost Legacy of Women’s Travel Writing in Urdu', South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 43.5 (2020), pp. 860-878. Link.

Malabari, Behramji M., The Indian Eye on English Life: Or Rambles of a Pilgrim Reformer (Bombay: 1895) Link.

Micallef, Roberta, and Sunil Sharma (eds.), On the Wonders of Land and Sea: Persianate Travel Writing (Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013). Library.

Narain, Mona, 'Eighteenth‐Century Indians’ Travel Narratives and Cross‐Cultural Encounters with the West', Literature Compass 9.2 (2012), pp. 151-165. Link.

Ni Loingsigh, Aedin, Postcolonial Eyes: Intercontinental Travel in Francophone African Literature (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2009). Link.

Pettinger, Alisdair, Always Elsewhere: Travels of the Black Atlantic (London: Cassell, 1998). Library.

Pillai, G.P., London and Paris through Indian Spectacles (Madras: 1897). Link.

Reed, Charles V., Royal Tourists, Colonial Subjects and the Making of a British World, 1860–1911 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016), Ch. 5: 'The Empire Comes Home: Colonial Subjects and the Appeal for Imperial Justice', pp. 162-190. Link.

Sohrabi, Naghmeh, Taken for Wonder: Nineteenth-Century Travel Accounts from Iran to Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). Link.

Steiner, Enit Karafili, '“Not to Abandon the Whole”: Cosmopolitanism and Management in The Travels of Mirza Abu Taleb Khan (1810)', European Romantic Review 29.5 (2018), pp. 657-680. Link.

Teltscher, Kate, 'The Shampooing Surgeon and the Persian Prince: Two Indians in Early Nineteenth-century Britain', Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 2.3 (2000), pp. 409-423. Link.

Thrush, Coll Peter, Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016). Link.

Visram, Rozina, Ayahs, Lascars and Princes: The Story of Indians in Britain 1700-1947 (London: Pluto Press, 1986). Link.

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto Press, 2002). Link.

Whatley Smith, Virginia (ed.), Richard Wright's Travel Writings: New Reflections (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001). Link.

Youngs, Tim, The Cambridge Introduction to Travel Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), Ch. 8: 'Travelling b(l)ack', pp. 115-130. Link.

Youngs, Tim, 'African American Travel Writing', in: Robert Clarke (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Travel Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 109-123. Link.