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Friday, April 14, 2006

toxic exotic?

Announcement: it has occurred to me that maybe I am exoticizing India. This is a concept I have only a vague sense about, buried deep in my anthropology-minor past and discussions of "other" from museum exhibit reviews. But I want everyone to know I'm thinking about it.

This all came up becuase I noticed a common color palette on the covers of the books I've been reading. Pink. Terracotta. Sunny yellow. Elephants. Brush-stroke fonts. Mughal-looking architectural elemetns. And I genuinely like all of these things, find them gorgeous and interesting and always have - but then where do those concepts come from?

I really don't want to be a traveler who has stereotyped. I really want to be thoughtful, to take in all I can on its own terms, to engage with what I truly do find, not with what I think I'm looking for. I know perfectly well that India is no more like Bollywood than here is like Hollywood. That's an easy thing to get past because it's so obvious. But what if I've filled my head up with other careless or frivolous expectations? And how does all of this fit with being aware of and sensitive to cultural differences?

My head hurts.

6 Comments:

At 1:21 AM, Blogger The Official Port Vila Dreamer said...

I'm in love with India too!! Although I'm also desperately in love with the Pacific Islands, but hey, I can two time!

I'm saving up to go to India sometime in the next three years and i know that i'm going to have a few wake up calls from my perceptions i have on the country!

They say that you both love and hate India! I think i would like to experience these mixes of emotion but i seriously can not imagine ever hating the country! I love the culture and the colour!

But that's the fun part about travelling - having your expectations completely shattered or fufilled! When are you actually going? I so want to be you!
-Amy

 
At 1:27 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Hi Amy - yes, geographical/national two-timing is allowed - and encouraged! I'm with you, I'm ready to experience it (at least, I think I am). I'll be there in late June-early August - monsoon.

 
At 10:10 PM, Blogger Si said...

Argh, I'm having a horrible time leaving a comment, I hope it doesn't show up 15 times...

Have you read the India volume of Culture Shock: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette? Spent last Friday/Saturday reading it (twice), and it seemed pretty useful. Practical, down-to-earth information without being frightening or too romantic. And funny drawings.

 
At 11:15 PM, Blogger Beth said...

Si - No, but I've heard good things. I'll track down a copy. "Too romantic" is something I need to avoid yaar! When are you going, I forget?

 
At 12:45 AM, Blogger Accidental Fame Junkie said...

Beth, don't think too much about it. After you have landed here, everything will be fine. Indians themselves (including me) can't help exoticizing India too! It happens unconsiously. When you are here, you won't have a moment to indulge in any exoticizing!

 
At 5:48 PM, Blogger Si said...

I have to be in Delhi June 9, I'm not sure of my actual departure date, they haven't sent me the ticket yet. Then I go to Jaipur until August 5. If you can't find the Culture Shock book, let me know. I can lend you mine for a few days.

 

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