Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Geographical distance and cultural knowledge: writing about China in nineteenth-century Latin America

Rosario Hubert


To what extent is the production of knowledge of foreign cultures affected by geographical distance? This article explores the porous boundaries between ethnography, geography and fiction in the narrative Viaje de Nueva Granada a China y de China a Francia (1860) by the Colombian Nicolás Tanco Armero. A rare document of exchange between antipodal regions of the planet in the nineteenth century, Viaje… combines the language of the coolie trade, tourist guidebooks and journals of pilgrimage, opening a form of writing about China that considers the rhetorical strategies of peripheral epistemologies. This text inquires into the forms of universalism that prevail over local histories in discussions of modernity, and casts fresh light on discourses of orientalism produced from other allegedly exotic geographies. My claim is that Viaje… evidences a form of writing of China where national identity is at the service of a cosmopolitan form of identification. Geographically, imaginatively and ethically, China becomes a figurative region that transcends the Latin American’s point of enunciation and, in turn, redefines the traveler subjectivity in relation to different forms of production of geographic knowledge: cartography, tourism and pilgrimage.

Text complet: PDF (English)