The Aesthetic Gaze: Siting Nineteenth Century Indian Travel Writing

Avishek Ray

Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, National Institute of Technology Silchar, Silchar, Cachar, Assam. Email:

 Volume 8, Number 4, 2016 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v8n4.14

Received October 19, 2016; Revised December 24, 2016; Accepted December 30, 2016; Published January 14, 2017


Indians have reportedly been traveling to Europe since the seventeenth century and narrativizing their travel accounts at least since the mid-eighteenth century. However, ‘travelogue’, what we know by European standards, as a genre in the Indian context is intrinsically linked with colonial exposure, the literary ‘modernity’ that purportedly ushered thereafter, and the high noon of Indian nationalism. Citing late nineteenth and early twentieth century ‘Indian’ travelogues, this paper examines the stakes in the Indian travelers emulating the eighteenth century Grand Tourist, and demonstrates how the literary articulation of tourism therein is symptomatic of an elitist-exclusionary mindset that strived to showcase cultural proximity with the colonizer on the one hand, while distantiating the colonially un(der)exposed ‘natives’ on the other hand.

Keywords: Indian travelogue, nineteenth century, colonial modernity, British India, aesthetic gaze

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