Samuel Baron's A Description of the Kingdom of Tonqueen (1686) contains many tropes of the European travel narrative. However, its author was no stranger to the country, but was born to a Vietnamese mother and Dutch father in mid-seventeenth-century Hanoi. Here I discuss how Baron fashioned his identity during his life to attract multiple patrons in the unstable maritime world of Southeast and East Asia. I re-read his Description as an example of “auto-ethnography,” showing how the author shaped his work to achieve certain ends. A comparison with a contemporary Chinese description of northern Vietnam reveals many similarities in tone and approach and helps situate Baron's text within the commercial and diplomatic exchanges of the region.
Samuel Baron's Description of Tonqueen (1686)
Parody and Counter-Travel
The history of travel writing positions the genre as a form that invents and circulates problematic image(s) of Africa. Emerging from this biased background, postcolonial African travel writing offer reimaginations regarding how to think about the continent differently. This article explores how Sihle Khumalo’s Dark Continent My Black Arse, performs this reimagination through counter-travel. I interrogate Khumalo’s appropriation of parody on three sites—naming, landscape, and the body—to counter the prevalent (mis)representation of the continent and propagate alternative ways of imagining Africa in travel writing. This article argues that although parody as counter-travel strategy is a poignant tool for critiquing the negative representation, authorial prejudices allow for slippages that propagate the same set of biases the form intends to critique.