Belated Travelers

Orientalism in the Age of Colonial Dissolution

Belated Travelers

Post-Contemporary Interventions

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Book Pages: 176 Illustrations: 10 b&w photographs, 2 maps Published: August 1994

Author: Ali Behdad

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

In Belated Travelers, Ali Behdad offers a compelling cultural critique of nineteenth-century travel writing and its dynamic function in European colonialism. Arriving too late to the Orient, at a time when tourism and colonialism had already turned the exotic into the familiar, late nineteenth-century European travelers to the Middle East experienced a sense of belatedness, of having missed the authentic experience once offered by a world that was already disappearing. Behdad argues that this nostalgic desire for the other contains an implicit critique of Western superiority, a split within European discourses of otherness. Working from these insights and using analyses of power derived from Foucault, Behdad engages in a new critique of orientalism. No longer viewed as a coherent and unified phenomenon or a single developmental tradition, it is seen as a complex and shifting field of practices that has relied upon its own ambivalence and moments of discontinuity to ensure and maintain its power as a discourse of dominance.
Through readings of Flaubert, Nerval, Kipling, Blunt, and Eberhardt, and following the transition in travel literature from travelog to tourist guide, Belated Travelers addresses the specific historical conditions of late nineteenth-century orientalism implicated in the discourses of desire and power. Behdad also views a broad range of issues in addition to nostalgia and tourism, including transvestism and melancholia, to specifically demonstrate the ways in which the heterogeneity of orientalism and the plurality of its practice is an enabling force in the production and transformation of colonial power.
An exceptional work that provides an important critique of issues at the forefront of critical practice today, Belated Travelers will be eagerly awaited by specialists in nineteenth-century British and French literatures, and all concerned with colonial and post-colonial discourse.


“Behdad elegantly deploys the trope of ‘belatedness’ to characterize both the texts he critiques and, to some extent, his own work. The term ‘belatedness’ also accurately touches upon the self-conscious mood of both of the texts reviewed here. Both are ‘belated,’ yet thoroughly welcome works in the tradition of postcolonial criticism . . . . Deeply worthwhile, thorough and even impassioned intervention in the archeological work of uncovering further variations and strategies in the copious archive of imperialist discursivity.” — Enda Duffy , ariel

"Behdad’s book provides an important and timely contribution to cultural and post-colonial studies; its historical breadth and critical insights will guarantee its success beyond mere academic ‘trendiness.’ It will be a lasting work, one that will become required reading for specialists of modern European literature as well as discourse theorists." — Françoise Lionnet, Northwestern University


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