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Session Details

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Tuesday, 29 December

448. Travel Literature, Race, and Ethnicity

12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Tubman, Loews

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Travel Literature

Presiding: Gary Totten, North Dakota State Univ.

Presider's Annotation:
Abstracts for the papers follow below.

Nation and Woman: From Conquered to Conqueror in _Los Estados-Unidos (notas y episodios de viaje)_ by Alberto Lombardo

Silvia Ruiz-Tresgallo, Penn State University, University Park

Alberto Lombardo presents in _Los Estados-Unidos (notas y episodios de viaje)_ (1884) the psychological trauma of the conquest of part of the Mexican territory by the United States. It is precisely this trauma that incites him to get acquainted with his Northern neighbor, because he considers that studying the USA will bring benefits to his Mexican homeland. The author starts the prologue of his travel book by explaining how he captures the impressions of his trip, in which he includes comments made by other experts who have analyzed in their works the different ways of life and idiosyncrasies of Uncle Sam’s sons. This Mexican intellectual, influenced by the scientific and political spirit of the “Porfiriato” (1876-1911), starts a luxury trip, without considerable economic restrictions, that will give him the opportunity to visit New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco, among other cities in the country.

Curiously, the “national” discourse related to the gain or loss of a territory is very similar to a sentimental speech, because the land, like a desired woman, is besieged, conquered and may be lost to a rival. Traditionally, the American land is associated with the female figure that is conquered in the battle field, and then covered with the mantles of civilization and masculine power. The homeland or nation becomes a mother or wife that her citizens—sons and husbands—should protect from the hegemonic desires of others. According to this discourse, Lombardo projects on men (the masculine figures), the military hostility of the conqueror and to women (the female figures), his desires of the re-conquest of national pride. In other words, the role of the author changes from that of conquered to conqueror of women, in order to compensate for the loss of part of the Mexican territory.

The thesis of this presentation is to prove how Lombardo projects psychologically the military loss of part of the Mexican territory by U.S. men, and his attempt to compensate for that loss by romantically conquering women in the U.S. Additionally, I will explore the confrontation of the author with different female models he meets in the U.S., and why he feels attraction, rejection or indifference towards them. In order to achieve these objectives, I will first present the psychological projections of the U.S. invasion in the hostile behavior of American men. Secondly, I will provide evidence about the relationship between the techniques used for the military conquest of Mexico and the passionate female conquest that the author describes. Thirdly, I will analyze how Lombardo is influenced by Eurocentric and Porfiriatic values in the racial and national criteria of the women represented, and how these criteria relate to his romantic attraction or rejection towards females. Furthermore, I will examine the repercussions of the absence-presence of black men and women, who are practically eliminated from the text and the national discourse. This essay takes a psychological approach in order to analyze racial, gender and class issues that are interrelated in Lombardo’s travel book. Those issues are related to Eurocentric ideas and the masculine and feminine models that are given priority in the Mexican “Porfiriato.”


Turkish Flappers and Twentieth-Century “Nerves”: America Sees Its Own Image in 1920s Turkey

Carolyn McCue Goffman, DePaul University

American visitors to the new Turkish Republic (founded in 1924) reported that the exotic, mysterious Ottoman Empire had given way to a democracy filled with people enjoying the fruits of modernism. With its deep missionary legacy in the Ottoman Empire, America took a proprietary interest in the “modernization” of this “ancient” land. The appearance of previously veiled women especially fascinated American writers, who gushed over Turkish women dancing at parties, working in shops and offices, and walking about the streets unveiled. Americans were eager to claim credit for the modernization of the Ottomans, and articles such as “American Schools Lead Turkish Youth” (_New York Times_ 4 November 1928) showed that not only were the 19th-century American missionary campaigns for social change in the Ottoman Empire still active, but they had been re-fitted for the needs of the new Republic. Articles such as “Turkish Flappers Find their New Freedom Entrancing” (_New York Times_, 20 December 1925) detailed Turkish women’s adoption of the manners, social life, and, of course, the clothing, of the West. Popular journalism also noted the psychic costs of modernization: “Studies in Turkey Show an Increase in Suicide: Natives Getting ‘Nerves’” (_New York Times_, 7 March 1928) suggests an ominous entry into twentieth-century anxiety. The new Turkey also appeared on American soil, embodied by progressive Turkish women (notably, Selma Ekrem and Halide Edib) who wrote and gave well-publicized lecture tours on life in Turkey.

This paper, using journalism, memoirs, and travel literature of the 1920s, will argue that Americans in Turkey and elite Turks who traveled to the U.S. were complicit in constructing an image of Turkey as a modern secular state molded in America’s image, blurring religious and cultural differences with modern social manners, and claiming a profound American influence on Turkish behavior.


“In my American fashion”: Zatella Turner and African American Womanhood Abroad

Shealeen Anne Meaney, Russel Sage College

In this presentation, I examine Zatella Turner’s 1939 narrative _My Wonderful Year_, focusing on the ways that Turner works through and against the dominant conventions of women’s travel writing of the decades after suffrage. To start out, I contrast her self-representations with those of white women travelers of the era, who toy with sexual mores, flout convention, scornfully dismiss mere “tourists,” and revel in their newly discovered bodies on the road. Unlike these white counterparts, Turner shows very little interest in placing the female body on display (a choice that I contextualize within debates over Harlem Renaissance representations of black female sexuality). Instead, there is an evident erasure of the raced and gendered body at work in the narrative. I also consider Turner’s narrative in relation to those of African American travelers who explicitly speak to issues of raced embodiment and African diasporic culture. It is not only in her faint inscription of the individual body, however, that Turner differs from so many others. In fact, individuality, the prized trait sought by nearly all of her fellow travelers, seems to bear very little appeal for Turner overall. Rather than seeking out “firsts” and dreading the fatal traps of “tourism” that her sister-travelers dreaded, Turner emphasizes her belongingness and focuses the construction of her narrative-traveler identity on national affiliations rather than distinctive personal traits. For instance, she offers her status as an “American” and a “tourist” in positive contrast with the “other” of the immigrants of empire who have relocated to the geographic center of British social and economic life that she visits. London’s “others” are Turner’s exotics, and in their exoticism they standardize her “American” perspective.

Focusing on Turner’s various deployments of nationalism, I ultimately argue that positioning herself as no longer a peripheral subject, an “other” defined by race, Turner re-fashions herself as a typical “American” abroad, albeit a particularly well-behaved one. _My Wonderful Year_ replaces the conventional woman-traveler’s embodied individuality with an assertion of an idealized national belonging implicitly cast as disengaged from race and gender.

1. “Nation and Woman: From Conquered to Conqueror in Los Estados-Unidos (notas y episodios de viaje) by Alberto Lombardo,” Silvia Ruiz-Tresgallo, Penn State Univ., University Park

2. “Turkish Flappers and Twentieth-Century ‘Nerves’: America Sees Its Own Image in 1920s Turkey,” Carolyn McCue Goffman, DePaul Univ.

3. “‘In My American Fashion’: Zatella Turner and African American Womanhood Abroad,” Shealeen Anne Meaney, Sage Colls.

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