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British Travellers in the Late 19th Century. Cultural Representations and the Ideology of Imperialism

Abstract

The cultural and socio-political references embedded in the British travellers' texts and reports related to Cyprus at the end of the 19th century are almost unanimously framed in such a way as to raise condescension and snobbish ridicule. In light of these post-colonialist testimonia there has been proposed an affluence of interpretative approaches and discourses. One of the most prominent is the one expounded by Edward Said. According to Said's idea of 'Orientalism', Western ideas about the East were generated from preconceived archetypes that imagined all 'Eastern' societies as fundamentally similar to one another, and significantly less civilized as compared to 'Western' societies. Thus Eastern societies symbolized to a certain degree a Hobbesian state of nature – brutal, uncultivated, and radically insecure. So civilized Europe envisioned a comprehensive apostolic mission to carry out in the East, which in turn inspired and gave meaning to imperialist and colonial culture and hegemonic practices, thus injecting a dimension to imperious exploitation linked to a sort of soteriological determinism. Applying Said's political doctrine in the case of Cyprus, one can shed light to the largely disseminated prejudicial accounts that presented the island as a place of barbarism that could be saved only through European values and ideology. Apart from this discussion, this paper includes short references to an unknown manuscript dated 1885, by the Edward W.D. Croker, entitled "The Troodos Hunting Expedition", which abounds in multiple hegemonic symbolisms and ethnographical and ethological interest.

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