For centuries the Silk Road has served as a connector between empires, countries, and cities all over the world. The outposts and cities along the Silk Road became the melting pot of race, culture, and religion. Transculturations between countries were becoming more frequent throughout the world, while Normal citizens, travelers, explorers, and scholars of the Silk Road experienced it first hand. Scholars such as Pratt and Clifford theorized transculturation through documents of modern European imperialism, while the Silk Road historians theorized it through documents found along the Silk Road. Although modern imperialism differs substantially from the Silk Road, transculturation described in Pratt’s and Clifford’s work was just as prominent in the surrounding areas of the Silk Road.
The Silk Road was home to many different people and as a result was traveled by people of different class, race, occupations, and beliefs. Many people migrated into cities and nations all over the Silk Road. A well-known migration was that of the Indo-Europeans. Clifford mentions migration and travel of Europeans and other travelers into unfamiliar places. “As Europeans moved through unfamiliar places, their relative comfort and safety were ensured by a well-developed infrastructure of guides, assistants, suppliers, translators, and carriers”. Travelers had to make sure they understood and learn about the people and culture of the areas they were visiting or migrating to. Sometimes leading into a new interconnected culture. During the Indo-European migration, the Indo-Europeans usually conquered areas of interest. After their conquest the Indo-Europeans began to adopt the culture and language of their conquered people. According to Beckwith, “Indo-Europeans migrants…married local women and, by mixing with them, developed their distinctive Creole dialect features”. The mixing of culture and language created new linguistics such as the Proto-Indo-Iranian. Aside from languages, migrants all over the world brought new culture into foreign worlds. People of different class, race, and occupation brought different cultures, beliefs, and languages. Pratt and Clifford describe this transculturation through documents and other artifacts found and preserved during the time of modern imperialism. The culture of both imperialist and the conquered nations were slowly fused over time. In Pratt’s writing, he describes a letter written by a native Andean to the Spanish King. It states, “…written in a mixture of Quechua and rough, ungrammatical Spanish…” This quote shows the usage of both languages of the conquered and the conqueror being used. Language barrier is always one of the first obstacles in imperialism. This letter shows a cultural mix in the language. In Clifford’s work he describes anthropologist and travelers dwelling in cities and learning the language, forcing him or her to learn the culture as well. “The fieldworker is "adopted," "learns” the culture and the language”. On the Silk Road, language was one of the most important aspects of fair and trustworthy trade. Usually merchants and travelers knew more then one language. In Hansen’s book, The Silk Road, it mentions a documentary written in several different languages. “The writings are in a multitude of languages including classical Chinese, Sanskrit, and other dead languages.” Being in contact with several different empires and nations, mixtures of languages are unavoidable. Like the Andean of Pratt’s work or the anthropologist in Clifford’s work, the people of the Silk Road and travelers began to pick up other languages. Interconnecting different languages results in more culturally diverse cities and people, leading to one of the first steps of transculturation.
Religion has always played a large role in culture, and the Silk Road was flourishing with both religion and culture. With so many people from different backgrounds and different nations, their beliefs were also very...
Cited: 1. James Clifford, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Harvard University Press 1997) 17-46.
2. Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London and New York 1992) 1-11.
3. Valerie Hansen, The Silk Road: A new History (Oxford University Press 2012)
5. Christopher I. Beckwith, Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to The Present (Princeton University Press 2009)
[ 1 ]. Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London and New York 1992) 2.
[ 2 ]. James Clifford, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Harvard University Press 1997) 22.
[ 3 ]. Valerie Hansen, The Silk Road: A new History (Oxford University Press 2012) 4.
[ 4 ]. Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London and New York 1992) 3.
[ 5 ]. Richard Foltz, Religions of the Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to Fifteenth Century (1999) 4.
[ 6 ]. Valerie Hansen, The Silk Road: A new History (Oxford University Press 2012) 3.
[ 7 ]. Valerie Hansen, The Silk Road: A new History (Oxford University Press 2012) 235.
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