Counter-Orientalism in Ella Maillart’s The Cruel Way


Travel writing becomes an object of scholarly scrutiny thanks to Edward Said’s Orientalism in which he contends that travel narratives are not the objective portraits of Oriental peoples and loci, but the narratives that collude with Orientalism to justify and foster Western Empires. Nonetheless, scholars such as Behdad and Blanton disagree with Said’s view, asserting that travel writers can transcend the rigid norms of Orientalism. Thus, by employing Behdad’s and Blanton’s views as its theoretical approach, this article will read Ella Maillart’s The Cruel Way to highlight its counter-orientalism: the moments in which the travel writer challenges the inherited orientalist viewpoints. Accordingly, the article argues that Maillart exhibits her counter-orientalism in three ways: firstly, through fruitful engagement with Afghan food culture, secondly via celebrating the henna bearing testimony to her Islamophilic stance, and finally by interrogating the geography of violence. In doing so, she offers an unstereotypical picture of Afghanistan. To accentuate Maillart’s counter-orientalist stance, the present article will juxtapose her benevolent attitude with the orientalist outlook of male travel writers with respect to food, henna, and violence. It concludes that Maillart’s counter-orientalist perspective originates from her neutral nationality and gender.


Ahmad Gholi


Afghanistan; counter-orientalism; food; henna; Islamophilic stance; violence