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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. To examine how the same space was represented in the languages and literary traditions of the many peoples who passed through it, this conference turns to travel accounts in Persian and Urdu as well as Chinese and English. At a time when Central Asia is increasingly drawn into political affairs at a global level, these travel writings allow us to map an earlier geopolitics that ranged from Qing Chinese empire builders to African-American Marxists. Through the polyglottal prose penned at the crossroads of Asia, the travelogues under discussion trace distinct stages of global connectivity by drawing together the age of camel caravans and horsemen with that of motor cars and airplanes. Focusing on little-known texts of literary and ethnographic no less than historical interest, the presenters explore the different meanings given to Central Asia in the far corners of the world.
Panel I: Early Modern Travels
Chair: Nile Green, UCLA
Sanjay Subrahmanyam, UCLA
Early Modern Travel and the Question of Patriotism between the Oxus and the Krishna
Arash Khazeni, UCLA
Through an Ocean of Sand: Persianate Travel Writing and the Equestrian Culture of the Eurasian Steppe
Laura Hostetler, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago
Central Asians in the Qing Illustrations of Tributary Peoples