Travel, Travel Writing and the "Means to Victory" in Modern South Asia

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Travel, Travel Writing and the "Means to Victory" in Modern South Asia

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Title: Travel, Travel Writing and the "Means to Victory" in Modern South Asia
Author: Majchrowicz, Daniel Joseph
Citation: Majchrowicz, Daniel Joseph. 2015. Travel, Travel Writing and the "Means to Victory" in Modern South Asia. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: This dissertation is a history of the idea of travel in South Asia as it found expression in Urdu travel writing of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Though travel has always been integral to social life in South Asia, it was only during this period that it became an end in itself. The imagined virtues of travel hinged on two emergent beliefs: that travel was a requisite for inner growth, and that travel experience was transferable. Consequently, Urdu travel writers endorsed travel not to reach a particular destination but to engender personal development, social advancement and communal well-being. Authors conveyed the transformative power of travel to their readers through accounts that traced out their inner journeys through narratives of physical travel, an ideal echoed in an old proverb that re-emerged at this time: “travel is the means to victory.”
This study, which draws on extensive archival research from four countries, represents the most comprehensive examination of travel writing in any South Asian language. Through a diachronic analysis of a wealth of new primary sources, it indexes shifting valuations of travel as they relate to conceptualizations of the self, the political and the social. It demonstrates that though the idea of beneficial travel found its first expression in accounts commissioned by a colonial government interested in inculcating modern cosmopolitan aesthetics, it quickly developed a life of its own in the public sphere of print. This dynamic literary space was forged by writers from across the social spectrum who produced a profusion of accounts that drew inspiration from Indic, Islamic and European traditions. In the twentieth century, too, travel writing continued to evolve and expand as it adapted to the shifting dimensions of local nationalisms and successive international conflicts. In independent India and Pakistan, it broke new ground both aesthetically and thematically as it came to terms with the post-colonial geography of South Asia. Yet, throughout this history,Urdu travel writing continued to cultivate the idea that the journey was valuable for its own sake.
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