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Ouyang, Wen-Chin (2015) 'Return or Departure? Homecoming in al-Tahtawi's Travelogue.' In: Bauden, Frederic, (ed.), Tropics of Travel 4: Homes. Proceedings of the International Conference Organized at the Université de Liège (13-15 January 2011). Louvain; Paris; Walpole (MA): Peeters, pp. 89-108.

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An entire chapter on homecoming distinguishes Rifa‘a Rafi‘ al-Tahtawi’s (1801-1873) famous travelogue written in Paris, Takhlis al-ibriz fi talkhis baris, from a majority of Arabic travel writing, which is always seemingly more preoccupied with recording adventures, encounters and moments of revelation whilst abroad. The last chapter, ‘khatima’, of Takhlis, ‘fi ruju‘in min bariz ila misr’, added after al-Tahtawi’s return, is less interested in recreating the emotional impact and intellectual estrangement experienced at the moment of re-encounter with the homeland after a long period of absence and sojourn in a different world, hinted at though not elaborated, but more invested in putting the Egyptian ‘nation’ on equal footing with the French ‘nation’. This after thought, the khatima of Takhlis, identifies both the end of one journey and the beginning of another. Al-Tahtawi, transformed by his experience in Paris, begins a career in ‘nation’-building that is both marked and structured by his travel and sojourn in Paris. His travel narrative anticipates the projects he would initiate and partake from the moment he returned until he departed again, this time, forever. This paper explores the ways in which the issues raised for discussion in Takhlis are precisely the intellectual substance that would go into his re-imagining of the Egyptian community, and the nation-building projects that would characterize his career in ‘reform’: from advocating intercultural exchange (translation) to political and social reform, introduction of modern education and, more important, re-writing of Egyptian history.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Keywords: tropics of travel, al-Tahtawi, nation-building, Nahda, travel literature, genre ideology, reading strategy
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East
ISBN: 9789042932470
Date Deposited: 19 Aug 2015 08:28

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