This is the abstract for the paper which I propose to present at the forthcoming 4th ICTL in a couple of weeks:
“They seem to be Incapable of Acting Together:” Robert Gordon and the European Categorizers of the Mekong Region
Robert Gordon’s trip to the Mogok ruby mines in northern Burma, as reported in his testament to the Royal Geographical Society in 1888, represents one of the most blatant uses of travel as empire building in the Mekong Region. While European explorers and adventurers had been travelling to and along the region for centuries, most had been intent on mapping, surveying and categorizing its contents for purposes of their own profit, in one way or another. Gordon, while of course not unmindful of his own career, represents the traveller aiming to be of service to the greater power. As such, what were the ways he visualized and described the various features most commonly exercising the gentlemen tourists of the times: the hazards of disease, alienation and women principal among them. This paper draws upon a number of accounts of travellers to the Mekong Region with a view to understanding how and why they made their arduous efforts and what it profited them.
I think this is an interesting subject and that I might be able to write something interesting about it – but I do have to find some time actually to sit down and write it.