|Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften||17. Nr.||April 2010|
|Sektion 6.7.|| The travel: knowledge, communication and / or power
Sektionsleiterin | Section Chair: Carmen Andras („Gheorghe Sincai Institute for Social Sciences and the Humanities, Târgu-Mureş, Romania)
Discourses of Difference in Philip Glazebrook's Journey to Kars (1984)
Atalay Gunduz (Ege University, Turkey) [BIO]
There is a most obvious analogy between Aime Cesaire's observations on colonialism and travel depending on the attitude and the ideological affiliations of the traveler. Cesaire asks if "colonialism really placed civilizations in contact?" Answering this question he argues that colonialism has created "No human contact, but relations of domination and submission" (qtd. in Loomba 69). My analogy between travel and colonialism might be considered as a very radical claim which tends to ignore the "curious traveler" of the "inquisitive class" (Sterne), I agree that millions of people travel just to learn about the world and different peoples. Yet what Ania Loomba notes about the encounter with the outside world is worth taking into account in terms of intercultural contact. "Encounters with what lies outside its own boundaries," writes Loomba "are central to the formation of any culture: the line that separates inside and outside, the 'self' and the 'other' is not fixed but always shifting. The vast new worlds encountered by European travellers were interpreted by them through ideological filters, or ways of seeing, provided by their own cultures and societies" (Loomba 71). This ideologically filtered knowledge travel provides us with does entail communication in a way, but almost always includes a negotiation of power. Through travel "the self" inside sees "the other" outside and recognizes its own identity while denigrating the other in order to celebrate the self.
The representation of the other and the self, as Edward Said notes, is never a simple matter of transcribing the world into writing. It is shaped by the discursive restraints on the writer. As "encounters with what lies outside its own boundaries are central to the formation of any culture" and European imperialism is founded on these encounters, travel as a cultural process intersects with the practices of the Empire.
Susan Bassnett states that the popularity of travel accounts is a British phenomenon. From the seventeenth century onwards, there has been great interest in travel writing which is hard to compare with any other country in the world. Bassnett observes that this interest is firmly related to the British imperialism. The Empire made it possible for the British to travel and encouraged the travelers to write about them. First of all, the Empire meant the necessity to travel overseas, not for pleasure at all but as the agents of Empire to India, Australia, America, Africa. The economic prosperity it brought gave the means to travel. The power that the Imperial state enjoys in foreign lands made it possible for the citizens of the imperial state to travel, knowing that they would be protected wherever they go by their consulates and the power they enjoyed in those countries. (1)
The representations of the European travel in the non-European parts of the world cannot be divorced from the practices of imperialism. In his ground-breaking work Orientalism Said strongly argues, contrary to what the Orientalist scholar would have us believe, that the representations of the non-Western peoples produced by the Western writers can never be free from the influence of the imperial legitimization. Thus imperialism has firmly predetermined the ways of representing the outsiders in these encounters. As a part of rationalizing and legitimizing imperialism, in Said's words, Orientalist discourse exaggerated, promoted, rewrote, and distorted "the sense of difference between the European and Asiatic parts of the world" (Said). Said also maintains that Orientalism, as an ideological position aspiring to the reflection of reality, is based on the structure which furthers "the difference between the familiar (Europe, the West, "us") and the strange (the Orient, the East, "them")".
These "differences" are not a product of a mutual negotiation between the two cultures. The represented party does not have a say on his part, while the representer has the all authority despite his ignorance on the subject. According to Said, Westerners have had a certain advantage and "privilege" over the Oriental as "his was the stronger culture, he could penetrate, he could wrestle with, he could give shape and meaning to the great Asiatic mystery . . . [relying on] the constricted vocabulary of such a privilege and [being invalidated by] the comparative limitations of such a vision . . . ." Similarly, Sara Mills draws our attention to different constraints on a writer's work. She suggests that a work can hardly exist free of these restrictions and constraints other works have created. Mills also highlights the relation between travel writing and imperialism and how imperialist discourse influences the conventions of travel writing. She also argues that most travel writers represent "members of the other nation through a conceptual and textual grid constituted by travel books" (73). Philip Glazebrook's Journey to Kars (1984) is a perfect example which confirms Mills' observation. Taking his journey to imagine how nineteenth century travelers felt traveling on the lands of Ottoman Turkey, Glazebrook writes a highly inter-textual travelogue which owes its themes and itinerary to the nineteenth century British travelers. This paper will discuss how Journey to Kars is determined by the restrictions of travel writing as a genre and how Glazebrook uses nineteenth century travelogues to construct his discourse of difference.
Sara Mills observes mainly seven discourses of difference in travel writing:
1) One of the seven is the tendency of the travel writer to homogenize the travelee through erasing their individuality. Mills says: "Their human characteristics are not stressed and no attempt is made to differentiate them one from the other." (2) (Mills, D, 110)
This homogenization occurs in Glazebrook's account in an immensely large-scale. He does not only reject individual differences among the Turkish society but he extends his deindividualizing attitude to a whole continent with his insistent derogatory use of "Asiatics" for Turks. Obviously, the term "Asiatics," does not refer to people who belong to a certain area of the world; it is loaded with the nineteenth-century imperialist connotations like the equation of the word with inferiority, backwardness, otherness, the non-Europeanness and non-Christianness.
His insistent use of "Asiatics" is both demeaning and "derogatory." It is not like "Europeans" or "Americans;" his use of the word is a kind of othering and humiliation. Glazebrook's insistent use of the term crystallizes his attempts to homogenize Turks: ". . . Asiatics preserve a kind of unchippable wholeness in a crowd" (54). In his reconstruction of the European identity Glazebrook uses Turkey to redefine Europeanness at the expense of the exclusion, marginalization and dehumanization of Turkish people.
Said argues that the main reason that lies behind the Orientalist tendency to deindividualize through "erasing every possible variety of human plurality" is "to stop and then chase away the sympathy, and this is accompanied by a lapidary definition: Those people, it says, don't suffer--they are Orientals and hence have to be treated in other ways than the ones you've just been using" (154-55). At some point Glazebrook uses the same sentiments: "It isn't possible to behave quite as you would to an English shopkeeper; because of the necessity of altering natural behaviour, it is an easy descent into becoming arrogant and rude, mistaking the Asiatic's bargaining posture for actual humility" (Journey to Kars, 83-84). Thus, as a race, Turks do not deserve civility, and they can be mistreated to an extent not mentioned in Glazebrook's travelogue. Although this is a quotation from Alexander Kinglake's Eothen (1844) Glazebrook's approval and affirmation reveal that nineteenth century orientalist discourse prevails in Journey to Kars.
The constraints that Orientalism put on writers are not the only outcome of the textual attitude; the tendency to use abstractions also restrains the writer from talking about individuals. As Said sees it, "Orientalists are neither interested in nor capable of discussing individuals" (Orientalism 154); likewise, broad distinctions such as Europe- Asia or the Occident-Orient "herd beneath very wide labels every possible variety of human plurality, reducing it in the process to one or two terminal, collective abstractions" (154).
2). As Mills rightly observes, in the representation of other cultures: "It is assumed that all members of the group have always lived in this way; they are denied a history and the possibility of change." (Mills, Discourse, 110) We see the best example of how Glazebrook denies a history to Turks in his insistent use of the "nomads" to refer to them. He means to erase almost a thousand years of urban life that they have spent in Anatolia. In his time in Turkey, Glazebrook visits cities like Istanbul and Konya which he finds far less beautiful than European cities. Reflecting on the ugliness of Turkish cities and how this irritates him he notes that "nomadic lack of attachment, most obvious to a stranger in their indifference to buildings--makes the settled peoples of Europe uneasy" (151). Glazebrook concludes that Turks cannot build cities like the European ones because "water and shade, not fine buildings, satisfy a nomad's needs" (88). On the other hand, he never once mentions the Ottoman architecture in Istanbul or the Seljuk architecture in Konya which dates back as early as the twelfth century. His textual constraints and discourse make him deliberately ignore and erase the Turkish contribution to the construction and maintenance of cities like Istanbul, Bursa, Edirne, Konya, Sivas, Kayseri and many others. This denial of history and change to Turks freezes them in time and in Fabian's terms "denies them coevalness" with Glazebrook's imagined "Europeans". Thus, anything Turkish loses its interest for the "European" as they are all regarded backward and primitive.(3)
3) A third discourse of difference is the way "the Other" is represented as childlike, immature and uncivil, having no sense of decorum. They are not only denied a history but they are also rejected an equal status with the writer and his audience: "They are described simply as anomalous in relation to a Western norm, as an exotic spectacle, as the source of speechless amazement." (Mills, D, 110) Mills comments on this tendency with these words: "In travel writing the narrator gazes at the 'natives'- and is irritated if they have the temerity to gaze back...." (DOD, 79)
There are many instances in Glazebrook's account which confirm Mills' observation. This is a typical example from his travelogue, which reveals how closely and minutely Glazebrook observes Turks on a minibus journey. "Though squeezed tightly against neighbours, there was no infringing on a neighbour's privacy....no one denting his neighbour, each managing elbows and feet with neat self-sufficiency...The owner drove furiously, brows knitted, so cramped for room--there was even a man standing between the steering wheel and the door--that he had to fight out sufficient space to change gear, or hurl the dolmus round the corner." (54) The writer selfishly claims the right to observe only to himself, when he is himself looked at he takes this as an act of hostility and arrogance: "I was aware of the Turks watching us derisively through smoke-wreaths. There was no doubt of the contempt for these westerners." (55) This also reveals how Glazebrook takes his superiority over the Turks for granted. He does not consider how lucky he was to travel thousands of miles away to satisfy his curiosity and break his daily routine compared to people he travels among who cannot afford to travel abroad but are most interested when they see someone who looks, sounds, smells and acts differently. The traveler becomes a curiosity for the travelees who find him very unlike themselves.
4) As I wrote my dissertation I was flabbergasted how travel writers could assert so much knowing so little about a country. Spending a few months in Turkey and hardly understanding a few words of Turkish in his Looking for Osman (1995) Eric Lawlor could discover why Turkey was not as prosperous and developed as England, Germany or France. With his elementary knowledge of the language, Jeremy Seal can draw conclusions about Turkish character. Mills argues that "Because of lack of knowledge about the group the account is produced largely from conjecture, from a very brief encounter where no dialogue takes place (Mills, D, 110)."
All through his time in the country, Glazebrook hardly ever talks to anyone in Turkey. Long before he arrives there, he starts to remark that the fact that he is going to Turkey makes him feel anxious and uncomfortable. (David Espey notes that "Glazebrook is actually trying to imagine himself as a 19th century traveler. He even mentions at the end of the book that he could have written it without leaving his library in England."(4)) However, he does not let us know what makes him feel so perplexed. At times he tries to rationalize his worries, but every time he tries to do so, he cannot come to a definite conclusion as to the source. In his narrative, all through his journey in Turkey he tries to create an atmosphere of fear. It is only at the end of his journey that he unfolds the sources of his apprehension:
You may remember that when I was sailing along the Turkish coast before having set foot upon it . . . I found that I was frightened, and dreaded what lay ahead. I believe it is an ancient fear. Out of Asia by way of Turkey have come not only the Persians turned back by the Greeks, but Atilla and Timur the lame and Cenghis Khan, forces of darkness and disorder which threaten the stability of the European world.... Entering Turkish territory, an English traveler braved the destruction of all that he valued in this world and the next...To scold the Turks for letting their houses fall down, as Europeans always have done, is to fix upon a superficial aspect of an elemental dread, like complaining of the sea for destroying sandcastles. (234-235)
Glazebrook thus tries to associate and equate today's Turkey and Turks with Central Asia, distorting and ignoring the one thousand years of history of, not only of wars and conflicts, but also of interactions and intermingling. It is most worth noting here that Glazebrook himself never encounters any hostile attitude towards him in Konya or elsewhere all through the time he spent in Turkey.
5) "The negative nature of the description is excessive; it is as if only those features which could be framed within this derogatory system of knowledge are included." (Mills, Discourse, 115)
As I have pointed out before, Glazebrook tends to ignore the one thousand years of Turkish history, his approach to what he can include and what he must omit is most selective. His representation of his time in Konya includes a lot of negative aspects like the Islamic fundamentalism of Konya, the ugliness of the city, the hostility that the nineteenth century travelers experienced there and so on. On the other hand, Konya was also the home of the great mystic Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi, who favored tolerance and understanding of other religions. The only Seljuk building Glazebrook mentions is "the Mevlana (5) mosque-museum of the whirling Dervishes" which "appears to him so like a great-aunt's drawing room--all carpets and chandeliers and glass cabinets and hushed gloom" (88). When it comes to talking about the ugliness of the modern Turkish buildings, the hostility he felt without any reason, the rudeness or offences that the nineteenth-century travelers encountered, Glazebrook's voice is as loud as possible. On the other hand, any message of compatibility of all religions, sects, nations, and cultures in terms of living together in harmony (which he might have done referring to Mevlana's philosophy and to some of the literature that has been published on him) is simply discarded. The example reveals the discourses he promotes and draws our attention to and the discourses he rejects to include in his own account.
6) "It is a convention that western travelers write about ruins in their accounts, but Pratt suggests, as Said has also, that the reason for this is to 'reduce current...societies to vestiges of a glorious past'" (Mills, Discourses of Difference, 75)
This is most obvious in Glazebrook's travelogue when he accounts for the motivation of the nineteenth century travelers to Turkey and to other Eastern countries: "A traveler didn't come to the East in order to study contemporary Eastern life or character; the contemporary East just the condition prevailing, like the weather, in the lands he chose to travel through. What interested him was research into the classical or biblical past of these countries..." (86). There are a lot of examples which might challenge this view. The point is what this argument leads to? What does it legitimize?
In Journey to Kars Turks are the opposite of the Victorians in terms of education and learning. Glazebrook establishes the role of travel in the Victorian intellectual values: "The virtues which the Victorians professed to admire most, and which the classical education dinned into their heads and hearts--resolution, independence, steadiness under stress, courage, endurance of hardship, scholarship--could all be displayed in a book of travels through classical lands inhabited by wild tribes" (20). The binary opposition which presumes British intellectual and moral superiority serves as the justification of taking them away from "wild tribes," who cannot possibly value the precious remains of ancient civilizations. Thus Glazebrook justifies the plunder of classical sites.
According to Glazebrook, Turks are the main responsible party for the destruction of ancient ruins in Turkey because "as a race Turks don't care a jot for preserving what is beautiful" (75). He sees Turks as people who are destroyers of the ancient ruins: "Half the world's most famous antiquities had to be rescued from lime-kilns, or pulled out of houses, or taken in some way out of common use to be preserved in museums . . . travellers . . . liberated what they found" (62). The general attitude towards ancient ruins become another discourse of difference that contributes to the assumed superiority of the British and innate inferiority of the Turk.
7) "There are also common plot and narrative structures for travel writing. The adventure narrative, it has been argued, by such critics as Martin Green, is 'the energizing myth of empire'(Green, 1980: xi). He says 'To celebrate adventure was to celebrate empire' (ibid.: 37)
Glazebrook suggests that he takes his trip to Kars just because he wants to be able to imagine himself as a nineteenth-century British traveler. His project is to follow the itineraries of the Victorian travelers who, leaving their countries which they loved "chauvinistically," set off for the East "in discomfort, danger, illness, filth and misery amongst Asiatics whose morals and habits they despised, in lands which, at best, reminded them of Scotland" (9). The fact that most of the nineteenth century British travel writers, like Arthur Connolly, James Creagh, Frederick Burnaby and Joseph Wolff (Narrative of a Mission to Bokhara to Ascertain the Fate of Colonel Stoddart and Captain Connolly, 1845) Glazebrook praises in his travelogue are the heroes of the Great Game (6) is an indication of how Glazebrook associates himself with the Empire.
In my reading of Glazebrook's Journey to Kars I have tried to reveal that Glazebrook uses all the discourse of difference that Mills points out in her work. In his efforts to imagine the past, or the Victorian travelers to Turkey, Glazebrook uses the accounts of the travel writers to Ottoman Turkey to reconstruct the nineteenth-century Ottoman Turkey. His boundless admiration for the Victorian travelers is not a mere coincidence at all. It was the golden age of British imperialism and during Queen Victoria's reign, England would boast of being the Empire where the sun never sets. (7) Glazebrook applauds Vambery's words which praise Britain. For Vambery Britain is the "real embodiment of the European spirit--the rightful civilizer of Asia" (qtd. in Glazebrook 240). Robert Youngs makes a quite important observation on the relation between travel writing and Empire. Youngs says: "Travel writing, when taken in its broader sense to include explorer's texts and narratives by missionaries, settlers, traders and administrators, has often been associated with the rise and spread of empire, and much modern travel writing with a lament for its decline." (Youngs 13) This "lament" for the decline of the empire is called "raj revivalism" by Salman Rushdie. In his "Outside the Whale," Rushdie firstly criticizes the representations of the Indians and British-Indian relations in 1984 fiction, movies and TV serials. Rushdie sees these productions as the "refurbishment of the Empire's tarnished image" (91) at the expense of the distortion of history through the misrepresentation of the Indian people and their history. He labels the discourse which these productions have in common as the "Raj revivalism," or "Empire-revivalism." (8) For Rushdie, "the rise of Raj revisionism, exemplified by the huge success" of these cultural productions is "the artistic counterpart of the rise of conservative ideologies in modern Britain" (92). He accuses the Thatcherite government of the period of "encouraging" the British "to turn their eyes to the lost hour of precedence" (92).
According to Rushdie, as long as unfair and stereotypical, misrepresentations of "the Other" go unchallenged, they keep their legitimate status in the cultural arena and they pass for objective information. There are two significant points in Rushdie's article that are directly relevant to my paper. The first one is the idea that any kind of misrepresentation should be contested and these texts should be (deconstructed (9)) examined to reveal how the stereotyping and misrepresentation works. The second relevant point is that Glazebrook's account can be considered as a part of the Raj Revivalism in spite of the fact that they are not about India but Turkey. In that account we see that Glazebrook finds nothing wrong with identifying himself with the nineteenth-century travel writers who celebrated the imperialist ideology of the Victorian England. (10) His insistence to Other and marginalize Turkey works as a constructive tool in his efforts to forge a European identity which is definitely based on religious affiliations.
Journey to Kars is a typical example of how centuries old stereotypes can be used through discourses of difference to "translate differences into otherness", in Pickering's words.
6.7. The travel: knowledge, communication and / or power
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