Imagining the World: Unexplored Global Collections at Columbia

Encounters, Movements and Travel

How many of us have a moved heart that shies away to a different angle,  a millimetre or even less from the place where it first existed, some repositioning unknown to us. (Michael Ondatjee, The Cat’s Table) 

Why does one leave one's homeland? What moves the heart onward? The items on display here tell many stories of travelling through lands and seas in pursuit of that new, "different angle" from the places where we were first born. This section offers an impressively varied collection of items ranging in dates between the 16th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, covering far ranging world areas (Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, South Asia), and hailing from travelers, geographers, historians, biographers, or  individuals in exile, and they come in a variety of formats and genres (diaries, maps, reports, missionary accounts, reports, etc.). All the items on display grapple with the meaning,  practices as well the contexts of traveling and encounters. The items follow inner and outward journeys and provide compelling testimonies of how encounters contribute to hybrid constructions of self, as well as of ideological, national, religious, colonial and anti-colonial identities. Lying on the cusp of many thresholds, the items on display articulate individual’s perceptions of their own selves and cultures, as well as of others, when they come into contact with one another. Most of the submissions under this section address the notion of how an encounter, a displacement, a journey, brings with it a sense of a repositioning of the self, as well as of dialogue and knowledge of others, while others speak of loss, power, profit and exploitation. Topics explored include mapping and commerce; travelogues; exiles and displacement; pilgrimage; as well as colonialism and exploitation.

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