Escape, Exile and Culture
Season Zero: Episode 0.2 Escape, Exile and Culture
In this mini-episode, I speak about escape and exile and how each are deeply entwined aspects of the tourist world. As a result of each, culture suffers or is (mis)appropriated both in tourist destinations and at home. This is a brief introduction to the themes that often go unquestioned in the world of travel, what binds us to place, and the consequences for culture. Welcome to "Escape, Exile, and Culture." Hosted by Chris Christou.
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The vacation as escape
How the vacation began in 19th century England
"Is tourism, a grandchild of exile and immigration?"
Seeking culture abroad
Cultural appropriation unmasked
Travellers vs tourists
The lineage of exile and tourism in the west
Escape, Exile, and Culture
Welcome friends to Season Zero of the End of Tourism podcast. In these mini-episodes, you'll hear short transmissions speaking to the principles of the pod. We'll introduce you, our listeners, to the themes and questions that will be woven into our conversations. A kind of primer on our politics. This episode is entitled "Escape, Exile, and Culture."
[00:00:29]Most types of tourism can be seen as forms of escapism, neatly packaged as its opposite, as freedom, as choice, as luxury and as learning. Tourism is marketed as rest and relaxation, but it hides that which tourists either need or want rest from. It conceals what is happening at home. It ignores the drudgery and malaise and poverty of imagination that has arisen in a time of ecological collapse and pandemic disease.
[00:01:09] Tourism hides that the vacation is an escape. The earliest modern vacations, not entirely reserved for the rich came as a consequence of the Enclosure Acts and the industrial revolution in 19th century, England. Not long after, industrial work and the need for time off from it, spread to the European continent and eventually most of the rest of the world. Tourism, as we know it today, is a direct descendant of this forced exile, immigration, and exploitation, even if tourists today are not descendants of European people. It is a consequence of how European elites toured as well as how European peoples arrived on the shores of foreign lands, in this time. Tourism is a cultural inheritance.
[00:02:06] In 19th century Britain, common lands on which people lived were slowly privatized. People were removed from those ancestral lands and for fear of starvation and violence migrated to early industrial towns. The conditions, not just in the factories, but in the towns themselves were deadly. Not for the sake of people's rights or common goodwill, but in order to serve the factory and profit, the idea and reality of "time off" was eventually created in order to pause production and to send workers en masse to the beach.
[00:02:49] The vacation became not just rest and relaxation, not just an escape from the factory, but a stand-in for what existed culturally and ancestrally in the places that people had left behind. The vacation became the surrogate for every communal festival and festivity that constituted a rebirth of the village.
[00:03:16] In an industrial world, the village was reduced to the individual and the vacation became a way to suffer returning to the factories. Decades later in some places, such "downtime" became enshrined in law and as a right of the people, of workers. The right to escape modern life in order to survive going back to it.
[00:03:45] This lineage of escape is not just economic or social in nature. It's not just an opportunity to take a break from work or family. This escape is intergenerational and inherited and comes from the exile that has visited most peoples at one time or another. This is something that the End of Tourism will explore and contend with.
[00:04:09] The podcast will ask, "is tourism, a grandchild of exile and immigration?" We will ask whether we learn or touristic behavior from those who traveled to foreign lands before us, uninvited. In this way and for this reason, we will occasionally search the shores of immigration in our time, seeing what washes up from the depths of our inquiry. We will ask if our touristic wanderlust isn't rooted in our ancestral exile and the loss of rooted ways of being, and being together.
[00:04:47]We will ask if tourism is a colonial pursuit or industry, and if so, what does reforming it do? Can you decolonize something that is inherently colonial? We will seek to understand these lineages without condemning them, without reducing our conversations to mere history, and without reducing the past to the present.
[00:05:12] Tourists search for culture abroad, in part, because culture is what was lost by virtue of leaving the Old Country, by virtue of being forced to leave. Today, that search arises in different ways and is often misunderstood.
[00:05:29] Cultural appropriation refers to the extraction and commodification of a particular culture, most often by people not of that culture. This happens almost everywhere. Tourists arrive and is a direct result of a place being turned into a destination. When the place goes, when it no longer becomes recognizable to those who live in it, the culture usually follows suit.
[00:05:56] The search for culture among tourists, however, is a genuine thing. If we reach deeply enough into that longing, we could come to know how it arises. What if it wasn't just the longing of tourists to feel or appear cultured, but a pining for that culture or cultures that were lost or forgotten ancestrally?
[00:06:20] There seems to be a deep desire among us to be well-rooted to retain a sense of collective memory that isn't simply history or nationalism. What if this is what people go searching for and what if it is how they go searching for it? What if such a thing can't be found, what if it can only be cultivated, in part, by staying home and learning home and practicing culture.
[00:06:52]This is the kind of nuance and disciplined inquiry that we will bring to the table every episode. It is a willingness to go beyond the bad behavior and stay there and take into deep consideration where it all came from and how we might proceed differently.
[00:07:09] By listening openly and deeply to each other, we can become less like tourists and perhaps one day something like neighbors. But this is not to say that we, as tourists, suddenly become "travelers" or some other greenwashed or wander washed moniker that repackages who we are in front of foreigners, a kind of saving grace. That would only deepen our chosen ignorance of the real and enduring consequences of this wandering trauma.
[00:07:43] The majority of the world's travelers are refugees, immigrants, exiles, workers, and real, that is not "digital," nomads. They are not tourists. You know, it is, in the end, completely self-serving to call yourself a traveler in order to deny the real responsibility that comes with being a tourist.
[00:08:11] Finding culture elsewhere, knowing that, "well, at least it exists somewhere" and that you were alive long enough to witness it, elsewhere, will not pass the test when the grandchildren ask you what you did when things were as bad as they were today, when some part of you knew that things were that bad. That is what I imagine is being asked of us today.
[00:08:38]That is what this podcast intends to do: to approach the questions our descendants will ask of us, so that in our wondering about ancestry and how it shows up today, that we might also show up for them, on time, properly, ready for duty as their ancestors. This is the invitation. Welcome to the End of Tourism.