Tourists on the summit of Cadillac Mountain

Colonizing tourists

Tourists on the summit of Cadillac Mountain
Tourists on the summit of Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park (Photo by T.S. Bremer, 2018)

Dubravka Ugrešić in an interview with David Naimon on the Between the Covers podcast characterizes tourists as colonizers. This reminds me of Andrei Codrescu’s observation in Road Scholar that tourists are terrorists. It also relates to Peter Nabokov’s view in his book Where The Lightning Strikes that most Americans know so little of their homeland compared to indigenous peoples who have been here 15,000 years, and so we work hard to suppress, dismiss, control, and ultimately destroy traditional cultures. Tourism has played a devastating role in this effort.

I have been thinking about tourists and tourism for a quarter century now, and I remain ambivalent. On the one hand, claims that tourism involves colonization, terrorism, dispossession, commodification are valid. At the same time, though, these are reasons to take tourists more seriously and study them more carefully. I have argued (in my essay “Sacred Spaces and Tourist Places” in the collection Tourism, Religion, and Spiritual Journeys, for example) that tourism is an exemplary practice of modernity, so if we want to understand how modernity operates to colonize, terrorize, commodify, dispossess, and control people and places, tourism is a natural place to start.

As long as we dismiss tourism as unworthy of critical attention, then we perpetuate our own complicity in colonizing and terrorizing the world, not only in our all-too-common practices of tourism, but in the totality of our lives as modern people.

[Daily post 082 of 260 in my year-long challenge.] ♨

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