This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals.
While Safavid Persia (1501-1736) was flooded with Early Modern European travelers whose travel accounts have survived to this day, travel accounts by Persians/Iranians to Early Modern Europe (1400-1700) seem not to have been produced. Such an allegedly unilateral European interest in the Other has led many Western commentators, past and the present, to conclude that Safavid Iranians were perhaps not as "curious" about or keen on travelling as their European counterparts. While many Early Modern European travelers like Chardin have regarded the Safavids as people without the urge to travel and Thomas Herbert is struck by ability of the Persians to sit still, there do exist a number of voluminous narratives by Safavid travelers to Mecca, India, China and other 'Eastern' lands. The urge to travel 'East', therefore, was not solely a European prerogative. In this paper, I will analyze Iranian travel customs as they emerge in the travel accounts of Safavid travelers in order to portray the complex concept of travelling and its significance for the Iranian Safavid worldview.
Safavid narratives provide instances of Iranian travel rituals and customs that have survived and are even practiced to this day in Iran. Centering my paper on the travel narrative of an early 18th century Isfehani female traveler-poet who ventures on a pilgrimage to Mecca, in the context of other contemporary Safavid travel narratives, I intend follow both Said and Foucault in order to identify a discourse to analyze Iranian (Eastern) travel writing and how it informs/challenges the narratives by Western travelers to Iran.
As present academic studies mainly deal with the perceptions of Early Modern European travelers to Iran, this paper will contribute to the discourse of travel writing by revealing Safavid views of the West and by exposing the possible reasons underlying the bulk of Safavid travelers’ decision to travel East. I aim to achieve this through a Foucauldian analysis of domination and resistance within the Western and Eastern discourses of travel writing.