Journal of Romance studies

Photography and the cultural encounter in François Maspero’s Balkans-Transit and Nicolas Bouvier’s Chronique japonaise

Journal of Romance studies (2008), 8, (1), 61–75.

Abstract

This article examines two textual and photographic narratives depicting travel to regions that have been subject to politically and/or ideologically inflected forms of representation by the Western European gaze: François Maspero’s Balkans-Transit (1997), with photographs by Klavdij Sluban, and Nicolas Bouvier’s Chronique japonaise (1975). Despite their diverse geographical settings, the two texts share the ethical and humanist endeavour of contesting reductive national and ethnic stereotypes in favour of cultural encounters that promote the vibrancy of intercultural contact and knowledge. Yet these journeys, inscribed in words and images, are also shot through with intimations of the fragmentary and precarious nature of such an endeavour. This article analyses the contribution of the photographic narratives to these textual projects, focusing in particular on the ways in which they challenge received views, reframe cultural histories and open up new spaces for the reader and viewer to imagine ‘elsewhere’.

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Author details

Gorrara, Claire

Topping, Margaret