Translating Mediation in Travel Writing: India in Pierre Sonnerat's Voyage aux Indes orientales et la Chine (1782)
MetadataShow full item record
In recent decades, a growing number of studies have focused on the parallels and interconnections between travel writing and translation to examine the ways in which both practices can be understood to represent the foreign, particularly in colonial contexts. Scholarship on non-Anglophone European accounts of India, however, has remained indifferent to this nexus. This dissertation addresses this gap through an exploration of the discursive strategies of representation at play in eighteenth-century French travel writing on India, a mostly neglected body of work in translation studies. Approaching early colonial India as a triangular colonial space and a site of pliable, competing colonialisms between France and Britain, I examine the plurality of mediations readable in a specific account, to underscore translation not only as an interlingual process but an entire problematic. To this end, I provide an annotated English translation of excerpts from French naturalist traveller Pierre Sonnerats "Voyage aux Indes orientales et la Chine" (1782), an example of interlingual travel notable for its ethnographic account of India. My focus is on the assumptions and mechanisms at play in translating difference into commensurability, particularly in relation to the travellers located understanding of language and its entwining with other categories of knowledge. Beginning with an exploration of the co-constitutive nature of Anglo-French relations in early colonial India and in the knowledge networks of the global eighteenth century, inflected and sustained by the local, I examine translation and travel (writing) as connected practices and concepts, their connections with the ethnographic and scientific, and the ethical implications of knowledge construction through travel and translation in contexts of empire. The annotated translation is based on an analytical apparatus bringing together science, religion, and languagegrounded in specific historiesto go beyond the perspective of the traveller and include the travellee, to consider both as socialized subjects linked to networks of other social agents.