Vernaculars of Travel in South Asia and the Middle East


About the Cluster
In recent years, a number of concepts have offered vocabularies to capture the ways in which attachments to cultures and territories were uprooted by imperialism on a global scale. Paradigms such as indigeneity and settler colonialism have used a set of rubrics to assess questions of legal claims to territory and histories of dispossession. At the same time, these concepts are grounded in a vocabulary largely inherited from the experiences of the United States, Canada, and Latin America. In positing a dichotomy between the violence and mobility of the colonizer, and the rooted resistance of local communities, however, these models obscure the forms of movement – both conceptual and physical – that actors in the Global South marshaled in navigating the structures of colonization.

The notion of travel has often been invoked as a central trope of colonial power. The differential access to mobility between colonized and colonizer had spurred a host of concepts that were central to the colonial imaginary, such as the cosmopolitan subject or the search for “adventure” (generally undertaken by European men) in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Yet rather than merely repeating this critique, our working group seeks to re-imagine the vocabularies and history of travel from the Global South, centering south-south relationships and non-European languages as vessels for reflecting on the political ramifications of mobility and fixity.

Principal Investigators
Muriam Haleh Davis (History)
Nidhi Mahajan (Anthropology)