‘I have lost my faith, I have kept the infidel fasts…’- these words were written down in the moment of great sorrow by the Russian merchant and explorer Afanasy Nikitin. Although he was praying, eating, living with Muslims and even had intimate relationships with Indian women, he considered it a betrayal of his culture and religion. Nevertheless, Nikitin gives us a quite humanistic view of the ‘foreigner’, who automatically was perceived by the Europeans as an unattractive, threatening, and extraneous. Black or merely darker skin was an indicator of danger and something unknown; darkness was associated with evil and the night. This phenomenon has been described by M. Bakhtin and M. Foucault as the Other – marginalized and despised. The further away the ‘foreigner’ lived, the scarier he was: the very end of the world was inhabited with monsters, which are depicted in texts/illustrations of Latin and Slavonic versions of Alexander Romance. Though medieval scholars dehumanized non-European culture-bearers, what happened the other way round, when a Christian traveler was outnumbered and placed in an alien culture? How did he respond to the traversal of the physical boundaries by Others and how did he perceive their bodies? Different sources, including Mirabilia, Embassy to Tamerlane, Travels of Nicolo Conti and Journey Beyond the Three Seas, explore such cases of extreme communication between West (‘sensu lato’) and East and can give us an insight into the European, cut off from the world that he knew.
Frontiers by their very definition are ‘fluid and open spaces’ thereby providing opportunities for easy movement without any restrictions. Frontiers did not impose any limitations and gave people the freedom to move from one place to another both within and outside its ambit. The easy movement of people, ideas, artifacts within and across the frontier zones enabled the frontier to emerge as ‘sites of contact’, wherein these diverse forces could interact with each other. Undoubtedly, mobility with its related ideas of migration, integration are thus crucial in understanding the notion of frontiers. This paper focuses on the varied aspects of mobility within the frontier zone of pre-modern Bengal. For this purpose, this paper examines two prominent literary texts of Bengal namely the Chandimangal of Mukunda Chakraborty and the Annadamangal of Bharatchandra Roy composed during the late 16th and mid 18th centuries respectively. Through these two narratives, the paper attempts to look into the various reasons that stimulated mobility in the frontier space. Moreover, mobility was not simply a task of moving physically from one place to another but was in most cases interrelated to the two ideas of ‘displacement’ and ‘resettlement’. For most émigrés, a constant conflict between yearning for a home left behind and the need to acquire a sense of belonging within their new social environment went a large extent in shaping the formation of émigré memories. This paper thus uses these two texts to throw light on the complex process of émigré -memory formation, which I believe is essential for a nuanced understanding of mobility in frontier zones.
Hugh of St Victor claimed that those who love their native land are weak, and spiritual perfection is achieved through extinguishing one’s love of the world. In practice, however, this is not easily achieved: experiences of homesickness and nostalgia while abroad are frequently depicted in medieval romances in English and French. This paper will examine the effects of border crossings one’s sense of belonging, the implications of looking back to one’s home from abroad, and how place and identity are constructed through nostalgia in romances, where the departure from home is often a necessity.