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Geographies of Contact

Caroline Lehni
Fanny Moghaddassi
Hélène Ibata
et al.

Introduction. East and West Standing Face to Face: For a Material History of Cultural Contacts

Caroline Lehni

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“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, border, nor breed, nor birth,
When two strong men stand face to face,
though they come from the ends of the earth!”
(Rudyard Kipling, “The Ballad of East and West”)

Of the opening stanza of Kipling’s “Ballad of East and West,” only the first two lines are usually quoted, as a way of insisting on supposedly intractable differences between two distant parts of the world. The meaning of the whole stanza—and indeed, of the whole poem—is distinctly other, a reassertion not only of the possibility of such individual contacts, but of the richness of encounters between Britain and the Orient. One might consider the usual treatment of this poem to be reflective of the extent to which post-Saidian critiques of Orientalism have tended to emphasize the adversarial nature of such contacts. Such an approach has increasingly been called...


Senior lecturer in British civilization at Sciences Po Strasbourg (University of Strasbourg). Her dissertation on the representations of Egypt in nineteenthcentury Britain through travel book illustrations earned her a PhD from Paris Diderot in 2007. Her current research centres on British visual and cultural history, more particularly on Orientalism and the reception of Egyptian architecture. Among other recent articles, she is the author of “‘Never the Twain Shall Meet’: The Impossible Encounter of Self and Other in the Illustrations of Nineteenth-Century British Travel Books on Egypt” (in C. Dubois & V. Alayrac, eds., The Foreignness of Foreigners: Cultural Representations of the Other in the British Isles (17th-20th centuries), Cambridge, Cambridge Scholars, 2015

© Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2017

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