Gary Totten, African American Travel Narratives from Abroad: Mobility and Cultural Work in the Age of Jim Crow (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2015), x + 171 pp. ISBN: 978-1-62534-1-617, $26.95 (paperback); $80 (hardcover).
When W. E. B. Du Bois addressed President Warren G. Harding in The Crisis, as Gary Totten points out in the opening pages of this illuminating study, he placed the right to “TRAVEL WITHOUT INSULT” in the same category as the right to vote and an end to lynching, suggesting, as Totten notes, both the extended mobility of African Americans during the early twentieth century and the substantial encroachments on that mobility created by institutional racism (3). Totten examines the ways in which African American mobility during the Jim Crow era became both a means of exercising agency and an illustration of the restrictions that a racist society placed upon African American agency. As a result, the accounts discussed in Totten’s study often veer between vibrant expressions of potential freedom and frustrating explorations of all too current limitations.
Totten moves through five travelers, beginning at the end of the nineteenth century and proceeding through the early decades of the twentieth. His first chapter considers the self-positioning of antilynching activist Ida B. Wells as a traveler. Totten finds that Wells employed her mobility in the service of the cultural work of her antilynching campaign, and he takes Wells as an exemplar of the ways in which African American travel in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries aspired to something more consequential than tourism. Perhaps as a result, there is little here about Wells’s observations on place, and much more about the content of her antilynching arguments and the significance of her own bodily mobility at a time when American race relations were defined by Jim Crow.
From the outspoken Wells, Totten moves to the famously cautious Booker T. Washington. Washington is remembered as a figure who renounced the sort of explicit activism for which Wells is praised in favor of a very different sort of cultural work: racial uplift through accommodation rather than an unambiguous pursuit of justice. The thread that connects two such widely divergent figures as Wells and Washington is the emphasis on the instrumental qualities of their travels: both were more concerned to do than to see something.
The leap from Washington to polar exploration in the following chapter can feel like a large one. Totten finds that in his memoir of polar exploration, Matthew Henson negotiated between protest and diplomatic self-effacement in his account of his close relationship to Commander Robert Peary in the 1909 discovery of the North Pole. At times, Henson could sound much like Washington, seeking uplift in the white supremacist context by identifying with white structures of power and authority, but at other times Henson claims his own authority in his narrative and undermines Peary’s narrative dominance, as Totten demonstrates.
Of the five travelers Totten considers, the name of Jessie Redmon Fauset may be the least familiar for twenty-first-century readers. As Totten reveals, Fauset was a very significant literary figure in the context of the Harlem Renaissance, and although her literary reputation has not worn as well as those of Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, or Countee Cullen, she remains a useful figure for gauging the significance of travel among African American intellectuals during the Harlem Renaissance period. As with his reading of Booker T. Washington, Totten shows that this establishment figure could provide useful frameworks for understanding the writing of less conventional African American travelers. Totten stresses particularly the way that Fauset positions herself in relation to her North African travels as an American woman abroad, concluding that Fauset’s “disorderly mobility” enables her to find liberation as a middle-class black traveler in North Africa.
Totten concludes with a reading of Zora Neale Hurston’s travels in the Caribbean. Hurston stands out among Totten’s travelers as the most accomplished literary figure and as a figure who was exceptionally well credentialed by the academic establishment, and he finds that her travels, while necessarily more focused on observation than those of the earlier travelers, were still driven by the need to do cultural work. Totten draws special attention to Hurston’s treatment of Haitian religion in her anthropological travelogue Tell My Horse (1938). Totten is especially interested in Hurston’s self-conscious negotiation of anthropological professional norms as well as the way in which she grapples with the task of representing West Indian culture without exploiting it. Readers interested in the contemporary popular culture of our own moment may find Totten’s discussion of Hurston’s attention to zombies as a Haitian religious and cultural phenomenon to be of special concern. Hurston emerges as the most empowered of the travelers considered in Totten’s study, but Totten notes that, like Henson at the North Pole, she still finds herself in complex negotiations for authority.
Totten’s treatment of the five travelers that he discusses in this volume serves to establish narrative threads that connect very different travelers rather than exhaustive readings of any of the individual travelers or travel narratives discussed. He also tends to emphasize travel more as an enabling condition for certain kinds of discourse than as the explicit focus for the traveler’s reflection, as in much travel writing. He does provide a framework for future scholars who are considering the meaning of and the varied forms taken by African American mobility at the turn of the twentieth century. The study reveals how travel can both replicate and challenge wider social patterns and constraints. It also emphasizes the importance of understanding travel not just as a manifestation of privilege, but also as a means of querying and undermining privilege. Totten provides a worthy beginning for scholars looking to attend more closely to the meaning of travel for those who are deeply and systematically marginalized in their own culture. To return to Totten’s opening, it is tempting to wonder how Totten’s picture of African American mobility might be changed if W. E. B. Du Bois himself was taken on as one of the representative African American travelers in this study, as Du Bois’ own trajectory toward his ultimate exile from the United States suggests how equivocal mobility could be for African Americans in Jim Crow America. A consideration of the reality of exile for African American dissidents in the period might have added still more depth to this illuminating and valuable study.
Pramod K. Nayar, The Transnational in English Literature: Shakespeare to the Modern (London: Routledge, 2015), x + 315 pp. ISBN: 978-0-415-84002-6, $44.95 (paperback).
Pramod K. Nayar sets out to “make a case for treating England’s literary history, from the Renaissance and Early Modern period to the modern, as a history of its transnational engagements” (2; emphasis in original). He ranges widely over this whole period, interpreting “English” broadly to include Jonathan Swift and Joseph Conrad along with Shakespeare and Tennyson.
After a brief introduction, the book contains five substantial chapters dealing with aspects of England’s literary engagement with the Other. “Worlds and Voyages” shows how English voyages and voyagers shaped English culture across the period from Francis Bacon to Graham Greene. Daniel Defoe, of course, particularly in Robinson Crusoe, is a seminal writer here, but Nayar’s range of reference is impressive. He by no means restricts himself to canonical works, but digs deep into lesser-known works by writers only period specialists would know, as well as popular adventure novelists such as R. M. Ballantyne and H. Rider Haggard. Interestingly, William Dampier’s account of his voyage to Terra Australis is also occasionally quoted: such ostensibly factual accounts are certainly part of a nation’s literature, but it is only one among many others that could have been included.
Nayar points out how often the “strange and new sensations” (35) a fictional traveler experiences are registered on his (usually male) bodily feelings and his emotions—extreme heat, extreme fear, unpleasant smells and sights. It might be said that descriptions like these are a fairly standard feature of fiction, wherever it might be set. However, the point that English travelers, throughout the early modern period, assumed the right to travel and move around the world, which existed mainly as a kind of natural testing ground and site of adventure for them, is well made.
“Difference and Desire” deals with “the exoticised Other” (74). The encounter with the foreigner can result in erotic desire, admiration, fear, or repulsion, but the fascination arises from the exoticism and the thrill and fear of engagement. There is an extended discussion of the discourse of cannibalism in early modern texts. “There seems to be, at least until the eighteenth century, the automatic assumption that distant lands which do not figure on European maps are more than likely to be inhabited by cannibals” (80). Yes, perhaps, but given that journeys to unknown territories were to be undertaken, some measure of wariness might be understandable.
The next chapter, “Consume and Commodify,” deals with the way that foreign plants, artifacts, and other objects are subsumed into English households and narratives. Slavery, as another form of commodification, is also discussed in this chapter. Then follows “Disease and Degeneration,” where anxieties over the corrupting consequences of imperial expansion and adventuring for “English” integrity are explored.
Lastly, Nayar explores the theme “Civilize and Collapse.” Especially in the later centuries of the period under examination, the “imperialist-hero stereotype” emerged: “the selfless missionary, doctor, teacher, nurse, reformer and social worker” (240), but the other side of this coin is the challenge posed by the exotic Other to the very essence of English identity. He concludes that “[e]ven as English literature depicts a global geography of English compassion it also gives us a global geography of the collapse of Englishness” (289).
There is no denying that this book is the result of extraordinarily broad research and extensive reading. It might have been wiser to draw the boundaries more tightly around the project. There are many long quotations that are left to make a point with only the most cursory of commentary, and they often raise more questions than they settle. The argument is also weakened when Swift and Rider Haggard are quoted side by side as if they are engaged in the same kind of project. Throughout the book it seems to be assumed that Gulliver is a representative of Swift’s views, while Swift’s savage satire “A Modest Proposal” is cited as proof that “Ireland was a cannibal nation to the English” (84). Shakespeare too is often assumed to endorse the opinions of his characters, in statements like “Shakespeare emphasizes Caliban’s animal-devil nature” (79). Prospero might do so, along with most other characters in The Tempest, but Caliban is endowed with his own subjectivity, and it can be argued that he embodies an embryonic critique of colonialism.
Dryden’s translation of Juvenal is used as an example of the objectification of the exotic woman, and indeed I often wondered, as I was reading, in what way the English discourse might differ from those of both ancient cultures and other imperial nations. The inclusion of the Irish Swift and the Polish Conrad complicates this question further. I am not suggesting that Nayar’s project should have been further extended to include a comparative focus: at three hundred closely printed pages, the book is already on the long side. But there is a certain slippage between “English” and “British” and sometimes even “European” that encourages doubts about the specificity of the phenomena being studied to just one nation and its people.
It might seem a small point, but I also found the referencing style somewhat distracting. It was probably the publisher’s choice rather than the author’s to include references to online sources as complete URLs in parentheses directly after each quotation, as if they were equivalent to page numbers in a print source. It is also confusing, although no doubt technically correct, to include the publication date of modern editions of historical works as part of the parenthetical references. A casual reader might assume that She was first published in 2008, and Robinson Crusoe in 1975.
The Transnational in English Literature would have benefited from a narrower focus: it is immensely ambitious to treat a subject as huge as this in the context of the whole history of English literature, and the book’s shortcomings all proceed from the breadth of its scope. This is, however, a formidable undertaking and a work of considerable insight.
Kobi Cohen-Hattab and Noam Shoval, Tourism, Religion, and Pilgrimage in Jerusalem (London: Routledge, 2015), xiii + 206 pp. ISBN: 978-1-138-78098-9, $148 (hardcover).
In this book, the reader embarks on an ambitious journey aimed at studying the importance of pilgrimage and the development of tourism to Jerusalem from the late Ottoman era to the establishment of Israel’s control over the Old City in the aftermath of the Six-Day War (1967). Both Kobi Cohen-Hattab and Noam Shoval are renowned academics in the field of tourism who have published extensively in Israel, as well as internationally.
Beginning with an introduction, which initiates us into the unique nature of Jerusalem, the volume is divided into five main chapters, each one relating to a different time period and ending with a comprehensive bibliography. A brief final sixth chapter serves as a conclusion, reiterating the key points developed by the authors. The whole study is filled with noteworthy charts, pictures, and maps.
More specifically, in chapters 1 and 2, Cohen-Hattab and Shoval explain that, for many centuries, pilgrimage had served as one of the most significant driving forces behind Jerusalem’s economy and expansion. Indeed, a mere shadow of its former grandeur, perched on the Judean hills and surrounded by a wilderness of rocky ridges and slopes, the ancient City of David had come to rely heavily on the faithful of the three religions of the Book—who flocked from all parts toward its sacred sites—as its primary, almost sole, means of survival, in the shape of providing sagging beds and crude meals for the pilgrims, selling icons, and collecting donations. This unhealthy dependency made its position all the more vulnerable due to ongoing social and political unrest in the region throughout the Middle Ages and well into the early modern period, leading to frequent downturns in the number of visitors. The authors then argue that the second half of the nineteenth century saw important changes for Jerusalem. Taking advantage of the Tanzimat reforms and the relative religious tolerance in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire, the European powers began to invest in improved transportation and vast programs of building works in Palestine, with the aim to strengthen their hold over Jerusalem and facilitate pilgrimage to the various sanctuaries. Hence, the urban landscape of Jerusalem was transformed by the construction, on an unprecedented scale, of restaurants, cafés, shops, and neighborhoods beyond the boundaries of the town walls. Jerusalem also became more accessible thanks to the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway (1892). With all of those changes, the Old City no longer only appealed to pilgrims but also to tourists in the modern sense of the word, eager for exotic thrills. The trend kept going stronger during the British Mandate (1920–1948), with hotels offering all comforts, travel agencies, and museums spreading like wildfire to cater the ever-growing tourist traffic.
In chapters 3 and 4, Cohen-Hattab and Shoval focus on an état de fait that, in recent history, had some parallels with the city of Berlin, divided in two by the infamous wall for nearly thirty years. After the partition of Jerusalem between the newly established Jewish state (1948) and Jordan, the Israelis were left with no significant historical and religious sites. While the eastern city (ruled by the Jordanians) continued to attract an impressive influx of tourists and pilgrims, the western city (controlled by the Israelis) had to completely reinvent itself in order to survive, moving from a primarily residential area to a top tourist destination on its own. This was achieved by the erection of national institutions, such as the Knesset (Israel’s House of Representatives), appropriate to a true capital city, along with concert halls, libraries, and museums (chief among them the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial). Thus, West Jerusalem was able to draw a steady and reliable flow of income through all seasons from—mostly domestic—tourism, without, nevertheless, approaching the levels achieved by the Jordanians. Following the Six-Day War of 1967, the Israelis found themselves masters of a reunited Jerusalem comprising both imposing religious and secular shrines. However, the authors rightly point out that despite tremendous restoration and construction efforts, the city has never been allowed to reach its true potential in terms of tourism attractiveness, as the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict over Jerusalem lingers on unresolved, with both parties seemingly more interested in successive futile trials of strength and short-term media coverage victories.
Chapter 5 considers new approaches for tourism development in Jerusalem, which include “free and efficient passage of tourists between the different parts of the region,” as well as “large-scale construction of hotel rooms in the region in order to capitalize on a possible increase in demand” (185–186).
In my view, the volume’s principal contribution is in further illustrating the complex intersection between tourism on the one hand and politics on the other. According to Cohen-Hattab and Shoval, under British rule, the Zionist Executive in Palestine took a number of steps within the rapidly growing sector of the tourism industry to legitimize their territorial claims and to encourage a favorable response to their national aspirations. The promotion of Jewish-owned hotels to accommodate tourists is the most pertinent example. Other examples are the training of Jewish tour guides and the integration of Jewish heritage sites into Thomas Cook’s packaging tours to the Holy City. Later in the book, the authors present two additional variations of the theme. The first is the efforts by the Israelis to bring tourists to West Jerusalem with the hope to ensure its worldwide recognition as the indisputable capital of the Jewish state. The second consists of the various actions taken by the Israeli authorities ever since the 1967 victory to convince foreign travelers—pilgrims and tourists alike—that Israel’s government is the only local actor capable of managing both peacefully and decisively religious sites for all faiths. As Cohen-Hattab and Shoval clearly demonstrate, coupled with similar regrettable enterprises on the Palestinian side, such initiatives have caused severe damage and, in the long term, will threaten the whole tourism industry in Jerusalem. The book ends on a somewhat utopian note that only through a genuine partnership between Israelis and Palestinians would Jerusalem attain its maximum tourism potential.
Significantly, however, the broad scope of the study turns out to be its main disadvantage. The different chapters, which cover a large period of time (to say the least), vary in quality and length, occasionally leaving the reader with a taste for more depth and reflection. This is mostly the case of the chapter entitled “Harbingers of Modernization: Pilgrimage and Tourism to Jerusalem in the Late Ottoman Period (1850–1917),” which would have gained in scholarly value if the authors had included additional quotations from the large number of contemporary travelogues, newspapers, magazines, and books to show the reader how deeply the transformations that Jerusalem had undergone in the second half of the nineteenth century affected the popular imagination at the time and the way people were traveling. By barely mentioning La Grande Caravane des Mille, which rather pompously came to Palestine in 1882 (29), the chapter also fails to make proper acknowledgment of the influence and durability of the French croisés pacifiques. Finally, I wish Cohen-Hattab and Shoval would have highlighted the crucial importance of women’s participation in Thomas Cook’s organized tours, which was in fact a radical change from traveling to the Holy Land in the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries.
Michael Hughes, Beyond Holy Russia: The Life and Times of Stephen Graham (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2014), xi + 355 pp. ISBN: 978-1-78374-012-3, £18.95 (paperback).
Today Slavicists remember Stephen Graham for his books on Russian popular religious life before the Russian Revolution. Michael Hughes’ account of Graham’s life and times, however, takes us far beyond those matters of the spirit.
Graham became interested in Russian culture in the early twentieth century because Russia seemed more youthful and vigorous than England, despite Russia’s sinister reputation. Hughes makes a convincing argument that Graham’s infatuation with the religiosity of the Russian peasants, and with religious mystery in general, lay in his search for a personal epiphany, since he found England’s modernity and materialism deeply disquieting. He became enthralled with the idea of Holy Russia, the manifestation of which was the spirituality of the Russian peasantry. Unfortunately, Hughes points out, Graham never quite appreciated their material condition; moreover, perhaps with an eye for his readers’ tastes, Graham’s books set off his love for rural beauty against passages of lurid realism. Graham’s first visits to Russia (1906, 1907) were privately financed. Thereafter he “tramped” (his own word for walking the rural roads) as a journalist, paid by the Times and the Daily Mail. His last visit to Russia came in 1916. The Foreign Office blocked his return in 1917, thinking that Graham’s writings too much favored the czarist status quo, when the government had decided that Russia needed a new course to win the war. The Soviet authorities turned down all Graham’s later attempts to obtain a visa.
In the 1920s and 1930s Graham visited and described the United States, Canada, Mexico, Serbia, Warsaw, Berlin, and the borderlands of the new USSR. He added to his repertoire edited translations from Russian, collections of short stories, novels, and historical biographies. The United States essentially replaced Russia as his reference point, but because of the hypermaterialism he saw in New York and Chicago, not necessarily in a positive sense. Hughes adds that Graham’s goal was now to make money; hence, he wrote too much and too quickly. His best works before World War II were devoted to Serbia: St. Vitus Day (1930), a historical account of the 1914 events in Sarajevo, Alexander of Jugoslavia, and Strong Man of the Balkans (1938), which investigated the 1934 assassination of Alexander in Marseilles. Nevertheless, on the whole, his works did not receive enthusiastic critical acclaim. During World War II Graham worked for the BBC European Service, though the book provides few details. He was forced to resign from another position, editor of a newsletter for the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association, because Graham appeared to undermine the association’s efforts to promote a positive image of Britain’s ally, the USSR. In the 1930s, sale of his books produced a solid income, but in the 1950s and 1960s Graham’s popularity diminished, Hughes maintains, because his works had become too old-fashioned to attract a modern audience. Graham’s notebooks of the time reveal a return to idealism and the ideas of his youth, even as it all seemed more elusive in the face of increasing age and financial need. He produced an autobiography, Part of the Wonderful Scene (1964), which, Hughes says, concealed as much as it revealed. Graham’s last work (1970) was an article on Rasputin and the supernatural in the magazine Men, Myth and Magic. With his identity so truncated between idealism, travel, and intense literary work, how did Graham make sense of his life? Hughes finds the answer in Vissarion Belinsky, Marcel Pagnol, and St. Paul. Graham learned to reconcile his dreams with reality. To live is, in a way, to become disillusioned, but a life worth living is one that strives to know what is true, even if it is never fully known. Perhaps, Hughes suggests, Graham found the truth in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
Michael Hughes writes as a historian rather than a literary critic. There is no effort to employ critical theory, for example, to uncover hidden meaning in Graham’s descriptions of “others,” which scholars of intercultural contacts do so frequently these days. Hughes instead uses a historian’s tools—archives and relevant published materials. If not a critical theorist, neither is Hughes a hagiographer. Graham’s frailties, distractions, and strengths, both personal and literary, are there for all to see. The book is, as the subtitle tells us, “the life and times of Stephen Graham” in the full sense. The nearly year-by-year narrative of life’s events can become tedious, but it conveys the messy hodgepodge of the literary, financial, and private vicissitudes of Graham’s life. Such breadth is strength, but it has its downside. Brief comments about Graham’s correspondents do not tell us much until Hughes reveals in passing that they, like Graham himself, are members of the literary second tier, the middle-brow writers and commentators of the time. In a similar vein, the sections on Graham’s associations with Vachel Lindsay and Wilfrid Ewart contribute less to understanding Graham than they should, considering the space they occupy. The same applies to plot summaries of Graham’s novels. The above notwithstanding, the narrative is filled with enlightening details, for example, the wartime pressures on the literary world vis-à-vis Russia and the USSR. Hughes’s extensive research, sense of context, and acuity of insight has made Stephen Graham known to us as never before. Lastly, Open Book Publishers deserves recognition and praise for making books like this available cost-free online.
Valene L. Smith, Stereopticon: Entry to a Life of Travel and Tourism Research (Putnam, NY: Cognizant Communication Corporation, 2015), vi + 211 pp. ISBN: 978-1-882345-67-0, $35.00 (hardcover).
Stereopticon: Entry to a Life of Travel and Tourism Research resides at the intersection of autobiography, social anthropology, and tourism studies, making it an approachable introductory text for individuals with a variety of backgrounds and interests. Told from a narrative point of view, author Valene L. Smith, a pioneering female anthropologist in an academic field that had long been male-dominated, escorts readers through nearly ninety years of travel and tourism experience with spirited narratives from three eras: the Depression years, World War II, and the postindustrial era. Born during a period of American history in which women’s livelihoods were typically confined to the home, hospital, or schoolhouse, Smith deviated far and wide from the norm and dedicated her life to travel, tourism studies, academia, and founding the field of the anthropology of tourism. Stereopticon not only chronicles Smith’s life of travel, but also offers historical insight into the changing trends of tourism through time and space, details the development of the field of tourism anthropology, and considers the future of new travel and tourism frontiers.
Setting the tone for Stereopticon, Smith opens the text with a foreword that highlights her pioneering role in the anthropology of tourism and then continues on to provide a concise history of tourism, from the late Paleolithic to the present, in an ambitious introduction. Following the brief forward and introduction, “Part 1: Depression Years” is decidedly the most autobiographical section of the book; Smith describes her childhood during the depression and laments about how a borrowed stereopticon toy and family vacations to Yosemite were a reprieve from the realities of poverty and similarly helped to ignite her passion for travel at a young age.
In “Part 2: World War II and the Beginning of Travel,” Smith describes the social atmosphere of World War II and contextualizes it through her experiences as a young, educated woman. After earning her degree in geography, Smith became an instructor at Los Angeles City College teaching beneficiaries of the GI Bill, and quickly realized that her students knew more about the world than she did due to their overseas experience. As a result, Smith’s life trajectory became consumed with travel in pursuit of knowledge. The third and final section, “The Post-Industrial Era,” comprises the majority of the book and details a linear timeline of personal anecdotes that gradually integrate anthropological and tourism industry components as the book progresses. Smith starts by describing the beginning of her travels, a road trip with her mother into the Alaskan wilderness during the 1950s, and the reader becomes immediately aware of her spirited and adventurous nature, a quality that decidedly challenges the archetypal role of women during this time period. Following the successful trip into Alaska, the text continues on to describe several trips to Europe, Asia, and Africa, eventually detailing her year teaching at the University of Peshawar in Pakistan as a Fulbright scholar and her entry into life as an international tour guide and a professor of anthropology at California State University, Chico. As the text continues to progress, location descriptions become framed by personal experiences that illustrate the changing cultural atmosphere of locales impacted by the growth of tourism.
Furthermore, the third section of the book discusses the raw edges of tourism that result from a sudden demand on local cultural and natural resources. Unexpected consequences such as social and environmental degradation are illustrated through Smith’s personal experiences with countries that began to open their doors to foreign tourists during the postindustrial era, such as Bhutan and Nepal; this examination of tourism costs segues into Smith’s development of the field of tourism anthropology. Following the organization of the first national symposium of the anthropology of tourism at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting in 1974 and the publication of Hosts and Guests: The Anthropology of Tourism in 1977, the narrative tone subtly shifts to discuss the growth of tourism in tandem with the burgeoning field of the anthropology of tourism and the future of these fields. Again, the autobiographical tenor introduces these concepts and their histories in an approachable and narrative-driven manner.
Ending the third section of Stereopticon, Smith concludes by looking toward outer space as the next frontier of tourism and travel. In 1999 she attended a NASA conference on space tourism that addressed the establishment of a space colony, the effects of space travel on society and the human body, and the development of international legal and medical protocol for space travel and tourism. Though the feasibility of space tourism remains elusive, Smith’s inclusion of the topic rounds out the discussion and motivates the reader to consider the future of the tourism industry and the ways in which it will impact human interactions. As Stereopticon is perhaps first an autobiography and second an academic text, it straddles the line between travel writing and tourism science; the compelling content allows readers to both learn and imagine, ultimately making this a valuable and easily digestible text for introductory-level anthropology and tourism courses.
California State University, Chico
John Eade and Mario Katić, eds., Pilgrimage, Politics and Place-Making in Eastern Europe: Crossing the Borders (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2014), xiv + 187 pp. ISBN: 978-1-47241-5-929, £34.99 (paperback).
Showing Anglophone readers the specifics of the “European periphery” from a local perspective is undoubtedly important, as several scholars have argued (see, for example, Michał Buchowski and colleagues’ 2015 volume Rethinking Ethnography in Central Europe; Chris Hann and colleagues’ 2005 book Studying Peoples in the People’s Democracies: Socialist Era Anthropology in East-Central Europe; or Laszlo Kürti and Peter Skalnik’s 2009 volume Postsocialist Europe: Anthropological Perspectives from Home). One does not need to be a particularly careful observer of world humanities to note the dominance of Anglophone scholarship. Luckily, the presence of researchers from Central, South, and East Europe in the discourse of world research after the fall of the Iron Curtain has been slowly increasing. A recent example of this is John Eade and Mario Katić’s volume Pilgrimage, Politics and Place-Making in Eastern Europe: Crossing the Borders.
Eade and Katić adopt an optimistic narrative in their extensive introduction, expressing the desire “to bridge” different intellectual traditions. Although they perceive difficulties in doing so, they prefer to concentrate on the possibilities of cooperation. Their aspirations are expressed with the metaphor enshrined in the subtitle of this publication: crossing borders. But what has captured my attention is the use of another term in the title, that of “Eastern Europe.” If we look closely at the geographic scope of the articles, we see a strong representation by the Balkan Peninsula (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Greece) constituting Southeastern Europe, one article about Poland (Central Europe), and one about Estonia, which geography-wise most deserves to be called Eastern Europe (although it is debatable when considering its culture). Ergo, “Eastern Europe” seems to be an oversimplification or an act of self-exoticization, probably rooted in the dichotomous division of Europe during the Cold War. If so, it suits the image that “the West” sometimes still has about “the East,” with little nuance pertaining to intraregional disparities, despite the fact that—as the editors point out—the perspectives vary from the inside.
The undeniable value of this volume is its attempt to connect three threads that play an important role in the sociocultural space of the region, especially after the fall of the Iron Curtain: pilgrimage, politics, and place making. Despite intraregional differences, the dynamics of their relationship pervade the region’s process of identity formation in the post-transitional period. The authors emphasize that ethnic identity and religion are interwoven in ambiguous constellations, activating themselves through physically existing sites related to specific narratives. Divided into three parts, the volume includes seven individually authored texts plus an introduction and conclusion. Unfortunately, these contributions are uneven in terms of the extent of issues undertaken, their underlying methodologies, as well as style of writing. However, these problems correctly reflect the heterogeneity of regional research.
Part I of the volume discusses situations where political boundaries lead to disinheritance from symbolically important physical space. In the first chapter, Katić examines a Marian sanctuary in Kondžilo—an important marker of identity for the declining population of Croats in Bosnia. The author has published extensively on the subject, and his contribution here noticeably echoes his previous publications. Giorgos Tsimouris’ chapter focuses on the island of Imvros/Gokceada, which currently belongs to Turkey, and is a holiday destination for its former Greek residents. The author believes that economic benefits arising from the influx of pilgrims/tourists are a considerable argument for local authorities to tolerate the “appropriation” of space by these newcomers.
Part II opens with a contribution by Zvonko Matić and Marijana Belaja, who analyze the dialogue between the Catholics and the Muslims in Olovo, Bosnia. The authors provide rich historical background to demonstrate that the dialogical process between the two groups has different dimensions (such as symbols, practices, and experiences). Nevertheless, they manage to avoid falling into overly optimistic excitement about the depth of the groups’ mutual acceptance, and show that despite interreligious dialogue, they still “remain firmly linked” in their own religion. Anna Niedźwiedź writes only about one religion and one ethnic group: Catholics in Poland. She describes two immensely popular Polish sanctuaries: Jasna Góra (one of the most significant historical centers of Marian devotion in Europe), and Licheń, a sanctuary that has been recognized for only a few decades. Analyzing both places from an anthropological perspective, Niedźwiedź reveals the internal heterogeneity of the Catholic Church in Poland. She notes that different projects fostering national identity underlie this diversity.
Part III is devoted to the issue of secular pilgrimage. Konstantinos Giaukomis outlines the history of appropriation of Christian pilgrimage space in Albania during the Communist period to create secular, nationalistic shrines. It is a pity that the author did not invoke the already rich subject literature, which might have helped to emphasize the specificity of the Albanian case in the context of the creation of secular Communist shrines in the entire Eastern Europe. In her chapter, Polina Tserkassova examines the controversies connected with the monument of the Unknown Soldier (i.e., Bronze Soldier) in Tallinn. Despite her unabashed commitment to the subject, she fails to explain how she understands “secular pilgrimage,” and it is difficult to ascertain how she conducted her research. Unlike Tserkassova’s contribution, the chapter by Natasa Gregorič Bon, who writes about the Himara area in Albania, stands out with its balanced structure and clarity of exposition, although the relationship between the notion of a homecoming as a strictly secular motif and conducting religious pilgrimage is relatively blurred.
It is worth pointing out that the volume presents a collection of “distilled” case studies. They primarily describe local phenomena, which at times are not well anchored in theory or grounded in a clear understanding of parallels to similar phenomena in other countries. However, a positive component of the volume is its index, which quite often is omitted in collective works, but which here serves to provide a nice repository of literature from the region that is not as well-known or well cited in Anglophone scholarship. My only critique is that the editors could have put English translations of non-English titles in brackets to make further research easier, and thus non-English publications would be more recognizable internationally. It should also be emphasized that it is inspiring to see that such symbolic bridges between the “periphery” and the “center” are being established. Even if some of these bridges are not as solid as others, they nevertheless open new spaces for intellectual mobility and the exchange of ideas.
Helen Morales, Pilgrimage to Dollywood: A Country Music Road Trip through Tennessee (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 192 pp. ISBN: 978-0-22653-6-521, $22.50 (paperback).
Popular music studies has a tendency to ignore its more successful artists. To quote Elijah Wald, “while there are dozens of scholarly discussions of the Velvet Underground, there are virtually none of KC and the Sunshine Band” (How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 10). Or, for that matter, of Dolly Parton, for the academic literature on Dolly Parton is unfairly small. Parton’s is a popularist rags-to-riches story. From impoverished beginnings in rural Tennessee, she has become a successful performer with a string of number ones, a songwriter of unusual perspicacity and talent, but one who speaks with a ready accessibility. She is a canny and successful businesswoman. However, academics are uncomfortable around Parton, perhaps because she is frivolous about things they (we?) think should be taken seriously. She draws herself as a caricature, a cartoon image of what a girl growing up in backwoods Tennessee would think was glamorous, but which others may scoff at as tawdry. And we academics, we do love a good scoff.
I was thus pleased to see this book on Parton. It has overtones of academia, but remains an eminently readable book in the traditions of Bill Bryson: wryly humorous, self-depreciating, lucid, erudite, and with startlingly thought-provoking commentary. It is certainly not the type of book expected from the pen of a classics scholar; the author, Helen Morales, is an academic in this traditionally elitist and unlikely-to-study-country-music field of study. The book is partly travel writing and partly personal reflection in which Morales considers her personal love and experiences of Dolly Parton and country music. Together with her long-suffering academic husband and nine-year-old daughter Athena, Morales travels through Tennessee on what she refers to as a “pilgrimage” to some of country music’s holiest sites: from Graceland to Loretta Lyn’s hometown, to the Grand Ole Opry, to Dollywood.
“Pilgrimage” is a concept more often associated with religion than country music. It is traditionally a journey of moral or spiritual significance. Victor and Edith Turner’s Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978) discussed the concept of pilgrimage in the late 1970s, considering concepts of mobility and communitas relevant here. Often Morales finds herself discussing Miss Dolly and her importance with her fellow travelers, and reflects on her encounter with a Dolly “unbeliever” who detests the music and culture associated with Parton. Pilgrimages occupy liminal space in that they are spaces for discovery and reflection—indeed the space that Morales occupies herself. She argues that the cult of celebrities has become a new form of “religion” together with ferociously devout followers, dismissive “unbelievers,” and shrines of particular import. This is not a new concept—Chris Rojek (for one) was writing on it more than a decade ago (see his “Celebrity and Religion” in Stardom and Celebrity: A Reader, ed. Sean Redmond and Su Holmes, Los Angeles: Sage, 2007: 171–180)—but it is a particularly apt comparison here. As particularly devout disciples of Parton, Morales and her fellow pilgrims (not, it must be said, her husband or child) attend various sites of significance to Miss Dolly (Graceland, Dollywood, etc.) before arriving, pilgrim-like, at the festival of her chosen saint: Miss Dolly’s parade at Pigeon Forge, with icons and even Miss Dolly displayed before the adoring crowds on floats.
Despite its academic bent, and its construction of a cogent argument, the book is essentially a travelogue, the story of a journey made by Morales and her family. Its accessibility belies its depth of thought. As Morales travels, she reflects on the topics under discussion—the cult of celebrity, the concept of pilgrimage—as they are reflected in the book. When she considers the Grand Ole Opry, she discusses the concept of artifact and celebrity worship. Discussing the Dollywood Parade, she talks about pageantry. In a way, this book is a reassessment of some of the core arguments of tourism—particularly those pioneered by the Turners—through the practical eye of a reflective traveler. It is an interesting approach.
If I have a complaint about the book (and it is a minor and perhaps unnecessary one), it is this: the concepts that are under discussion do not have the usual academic background information. This is an unusual book within tourism literature: one that attempts to address some fairly complex issues, but that is rooted in the narrative of real-life experience. The concept of pilgrimage, for example, is referred to regularly throughout the book, but treated at a rather superficial level. Even the cult-of-celebrity-as-religion is treated as if it were a new concept rather than one within a history. Perhaps these are necessary choices to ensure the book’s accessibility to a wider audience. Scholars, after all, have their background reading and knowledge, and nonacademic readers can revel in the travelogue. However, I believe, written well, a more considered background could have been achieved without losing the nonacademic reader, and Morales is clearly a talented and engaging writer.
Like Parton, country music has not gained the academic recognition it deserves. Country music, by its very name, is the music of rural areas, of the regions. Partly this academic lacuna is caused by the lack of research universities in regional and rural areas; such institutions are dominantly congregated within urban centers. Also, returning once again to Wald, academics like to study music that sustains repeated listening. Parton’s music, and much regional music, is musically simpler than that which has attracted research in the past, but certainly no less worthy of examination. This book speaks clearly within an academic void. It is thoughtful and it is engagingly written, a worthy addition to the discourse surrounding both country music and travel writing.