Initiated from personal experience this superb scholarly study confronts the complex relationship between Orientalism and European colonialism. In attempting to understand the power of representation and of stereotypes the author examines the historical background of Orientalism, and argues why it remains such a productive force in neo-colonial power relations.
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 travellers 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.
Using sources from nineteenth century French literature, such as the works of Flaubert, Nerval, Chateaubriand and Lamartine, and from England, the works of Kipling, Behdad addresses the specific historical conditions of Orientalism in this period. He employs theoretical material from various fields of knowledge - anthropology, literary theory, history, philosophy and psychoanalysis - and views a broad range of issues in addition to nostalgia and tourism, including transvestism and melancholia.Belated Travelers also integrates the work of Arab intellectuals such as Abdel Malek, Hichem Djait, Hassan El Nouty and Ali Shariati, enriching the critical base of the study and enabling a deeper understanding of post-colonial discourse.
Elegant and stylishly written, Ali Behdad achieves something beyond academic trendiness and has written a book which will be required reading for specialists in modern European literature and all concerned with colonial and post-colonial theory.