Travel Culture: Essays on What Makes Us Go

By Carol Traynor Williams | Go to book overview

names the "icons" of McDonald's, cyberspace, MTV, Nike, the Miss Universe contest, and the like. "Should this mass culture be considered part of global culture?" Shapiro asks. How can it not be? But how to untangle the joy of a trip to Disneyland, the lift of a pair of Nikes, from what they "threaten? Nike, "ironically, has depended upon exploited Indonesian laborers," Shapiro notes. What if the regional diversity embraces female circumcision? What if the particular culture's identity needs to sell rare, radiated tortoises? ("We do this to eat. We are human. We need to eat," says the tortoise catcher in Madagascar, where both the land and the sea have been made barren by human farming.) 16 Let our answering these questions not be thought of as a battle, but, rather, a dilemma--a global one all us travelers are knotted up in. Tourists and natives all, we must do more than just pass in the night.

We will at least get a snapshot of the edges where we touch in the selection of essays on the global, millennial travel culture that follow. Reading these studies over, following the trains of their allusions and images, I envision them spurring more connections, new papers and collections. In the global culture, this era of "demystifying imperialism" ( Pratt), may they feed the institutional curriculum struggles now under way in most American universities, "the legacy of Euroimperialism, androcentrism and white supremacy in education and official culture" ( Prattxi). But besides the serious, may the ends of these new analyses and interpretations of the travel culture be to feed our sense of wonder; open us to new peoples, ways of living, ideas; and stir us to move--to travel.


NOTES
1.
In The Neanderthal Enigma: Solving the Mystery of Human Origins ( NewYork: Morrow, 1995), James Shreeve, a contributing editor of Discover magazine, proposed that the answer to the "mystery of human origins" is the Cro-Magnon people, specifically their mobility, which the Neanderthal did not share, and which drove the Cro-Magnons to go afield to mate; and then to learn and create many new tools and, for the first time, symbolic expression such as cave paintings, starting around 40,000 years ago, which most paleoanthropologists say marks the start of the human race of today. Shreeve's hypothesis is new and has not won the field over the Neanderthal-ites, but what should interest us is that mobility--travel--is primary in his argument. See also the review by Brenda Fowler, "Where Did He Go?" New York Times Book Review, December 17, 1995, 21.
2.
Charles Siebert, "The Cuts That Go Deeper," New York Times Magazine, July 7, 1996, 25.
3.
"Origins of Sightseeing," Annals of Tourism Research 16 ( 1989): 7-29. Dean MacCan nell makes a similar point on the "institutionalism" of tourists looking at ordinary, everyday work and workers, in The Tourist. A New Theory of the Leisure Class ( New York: Macmillan, 1976), 49 ( 2nd ed., 1989). MacCannell's point is cited by John Urry in The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies ( Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1990), 8.
4.
"An Accidental Family" (review of A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry), New York Times Book Review, June 23, 1996, 29.
5.
Philip Shenon, "The End of the World on 10 Tugriks a Day," New York Times Magazine, June 30,1996,37. Frommer's series ( 1957-), is unusual today in being "for all travelers except the backpacking, sandal-wearing crowd" (37).

-xxiii-

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