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Decolonizing geographies of travel: reading James/Jan Morris

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Travel writing can produce critical 'in-between' spaces, which contribute to broader cultural politics of postcolonialism, by transgressing and in a preliminary sense deconstructing imperial binaries. These imperial binaries structure subjectivities, on the one hand, and material geographies, on the other. This paper examines such a project, through a reading of travel writing by James/Jan Morris, which shows how processes of decolonizing subjectivities and material geographies may be recursively related. Morris is known for newspaper coverage of the 1953 Everest expedition, for a trilogy on the British Empire, for the autobiographical account of a sex change, and for many travel books and articles; all of which foreground themes of gender and imperialism. The paper argues that Morris's decolonizations have charted and created in-between spaces of subjectivity and material geography, ambivalent spaces with critical potential. The ambivalence of these spaces can constitute a critical limitation, but also an opportunity; in response, the conclusion redirects some critical attention away from writers and textual spaces to readers and interpretations, and thus points towards a postcolonial (and wider) politics of reading.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-03-01

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