عنوان مقاله [English]
Introduction: Starting with the 19th century‘s European expansion and colonization, the contact between Europe and the non-European world has been disproportional. As emerging from Bitterli’s typology (1976) of a cultural encounter, this contact can be captured by two inseparable dimensions: the socio-political and the cultural. In the past forty years, the intercultural aspect of colonialism has gained currency in scholarship. Bitterli claims that history of colonialism must reorient itself completely. By this, he means that it cannot be explained solely by the changes in power and interest and the resulting political, administrative, and economic change. Similarly, Mary Louis Pratt (1992) argues that the analysis of the cultural contacts between Europe and the other parts of the world, which has influenced the colonial power relations, has been omitted from the analysis of power, and particularly so in the case of analyses starting from the non-European side.
Method: The present study is to explore the specificity of cultural boundary-drawing by Iranians traveling to Europe in the turn of the 20th century. The process of the cultural boundary-making and the boundary itself shall be observed and be described in its historical context. Travel writing, as a literary genre, and its practice by 19th and beginnings of the 20th century by Persians traveling to Europe can contribute to the understanding of how social actors construct groups as similar and different and how it shapes their understanding toward such groups.
Results and discussion: In Iran’s Qajar period, travel activities increased greatly, cumulating into a kind of golden era of Persian travel literature. In the numerous Persian reports of Europe, produced in this era, we find examples illuminating the tension between the motivation of assimilation on one side and the resistance towards import of stranger’s perceptions on the other side. Since fear and fascination have always been the ambivalent tendency of Iranians towards foreign cultures. Especially the travel report of Ẓahīr-ad-dawleh (1900), who traveled as a companion of Mụẓaffar-ad-dīn-šāh to Europe at the turn of the 20th century, is going to reveal much of the turbulences in Iranian society before the Constitutional Revolution of 1906. Despite Ẓahīr-ad-dawleh’s high political status at the court of Mụẓaffar-ad-dīn-šāh, his narrative appears critical and far from self-censorship. In similar conditions, other persons in the court who had the equal position did not dare to speak, not only because of losing their high rank but also because of losing their lives. What is interesting about Ẓahīr-ad-dawleh’s report is the comparative perspective that he maintains in his observations of the modern European conditions on one hand and the societal situation in Iran on the other hand. At the same time, however, he remains sober about the prospects of a complete acculturation with the European culture.
Conclusion: it can be argued that the travel writings have a lot to say but not discussed before. Despite this report’s unique thematic and formal properties, this travel writing has been rarely studied before. Particularly for a Persian travelogue like that of Ẓahīr ad-Dawleh, which was configured in regard to a European Other and during the novel experience of alterity, it would be very helpful to examine empirical qualitative data analysis and way it had come to the process of boundary-drawing. This act is one of the first steps towards constructing something that we name it in the future “the Iranian identity” and the (re)construction of a common history.