Since travel writing predates ethnography, much research has centred on the influence of travel writing on ethnography (rather than the other way around). Ongoing debates over the crisis in anthropology mean that scholarly investigations of ethnography’s indebtedness to travel writing tend to be valued for their contribution to the crisis debate. Less attention has been paid to the question of counter-influence: the presence of ethnography in contemporary travel narratives about Afghanistan. My comparison of ethnographers’ and travellers’ accounts of Afghan games reveals that recent travel writing about Afghanistan relies heavily upon the long-established (and much maligned) textual practices, varieties of ethnography that have long since become outmoded and discredited. I hereby refer to pre-crisis modes of ethnography as ‘classical ethnographies’.1 Attending to the intertwining of travel writing and ethnography reveals the crucial relationship between travel writing about Afghanistan and the establishment of narrative authority to define and explain, in the words of Sir Alfred Lyall, ‘the unruly Afghan’ (quoted in Azoy 2003: 21), or to perpetuate what I shall describe as the ‘warlike Afghan’ thesis.
The Counter-Influence of Ethnography on Christopher Kremmer's The Carpet Wars (2002) and Christina Lamb's The Sewing Circles of Herat (2002)
Ongoing Ethical and Theoretical Dilemmas
Corinne Fowler and Ludmilla Kostova
As a hybrid discourse cutting across generic and disciplinary boundaries and giving expression to diverse perspectives on a wide gamut of intercultural relations, travel writing has found itself at the centre of a widening field of intellectual inquiry. This special issue focuses on the ethical parameters of travel in a range of texts produced in a variety of historical and national contexts. While the topic is not strikingly novel, the editors and contributors to this issue nevertheless believe that their critical interventions engage fruitfully both with earlier interpretations and current theoretical paradigms. The six essays that comprise this issue concentrate on specific ethical dilemmas, neither attempting fusion into a coherent body of theory nor constructing all-purpose systems of classification, but preferring instead to tackle critical practices and preconceptions from a variety of competing perspectives. As early as 1985 Mary Louise Pratt defined travel writing as ‘one of the most polyphonous of genres’, thereby alerting scholars to its resistance to the ‘disciplined’ mediation of cultural differences (Pratt 1985: 141) and hinting at the futility of generalizing methods of analysis. Taking into account the distinctive features of the object of inquiry itself, the site-specific contributions to this issue are in tune with the anti-universalist thrust of most present-day critical practice.