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Volume 9, No. 8 - November 1999
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Orvar Löfgren, professor of European ethnology at the University of Lund, Sweden, and author of On Holiday: A History of Vacationing(California, 1999).

"Not interested in wading through yet another tome that purports to deconstruct the Magic Kingdom? Then Ralph Rugoff's Circus Americanus (Verso, 1995) is the book for you. Rugoff provides a tour of Southern California sights--from Richard Nixon's library in Yorba Linda to the Hyperion Waste Treatment Plant outside Los Angeles--that never made it into the league of five-star attractions. In Rugoff's loving description of 'theme park slums' like Santa's Village or Tiki World, he notes how relaxing it is to be away from the perpetual freshness and mandatory friendliness of the perfect resort. Here, in a world of peeling paint and makeshift repairs, the employees are free to look as depressed as they feel. Photographs by Mark Lipson and Debra DiPaolo nicely complement Rugoff's prose portraits."

Hal K. Rothman, professor of history at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and author of Devil's Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth-Century American West (Kansas, 1998).

"John Hannigan's Fantasy City: Pleasure and Profit in the Postmodern Metropolis (Routledge, 1998) examines the processes of capital formation and power distribution, showing how huge development projects plane off the rough edges but retain the funky flavor of the inner city. In a business-oriented take on the same phenomena, B. Joseph Pine, B. Joseph Pine II, and James H. Gilmore's The Experience Economy (Harvard Business School Press, 1999) describes a world where consuming intangibles is more important than consuming goods. 'If you charge for the time customers spend with you, then and only then are you in the experience business,' say the three authors. Here is a view into the future of travel consumption, where the experiences acquired--not the goods--are paramount."

William Stowe, professor of English at Wesleyan University and author of Going Abroad: European Travel in Nineteenth-Century American Culture (Princeton, 1994). .

"In Inventing New England; Regional Tourism in the Nineteenth Century (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995), Dona Brown claims that what we think of as 'Old New England' was shaped by the economic and cultural forces of nineteenth-century tourist travel. White Mountain vistas, Vermont farmhouses, the streets and wharves of Nantucket, and the sea captain's houses of southern Maine were all 'manufactured for the trade' by using raw materials from New England's past to cater to the desires of a newly mobile, predominantly urban middle class. It's a compelling argument for the power of tourism not only to shape our ideas of places but to alter the places themselves to match those ideas."

Leah Dilworth, assistant professor of English at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus and author of Imagining Indians in the Southwest: Persistent Visions of a Primitive Past (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996).

"What kind of local history remains after the tourist trade moves in? Based on several years of ethnographic fieldwork, New History in an Old Museum: Creating the past at Colonial Williamsburg, by the anthropologists Richard Handler and Eric Gable (Duke, 1997), examines how workers and visitors deal with conflicting manifestations of the Colonial past in Williamsburg. The 'old history' of blacksmiths, candle makers, and genteel burghers clashes with the 'new social history,' which incorporates harsher realities like Colonial slavery. In a similar vein, Hal K. Rothman's Devil's Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth-Century American West (Kansas, 1998) revisits the territory covered by Earl Pomeroy's 1957 classic, In Search of the Golden West. Rothman offers an updated, comprehensive history of the development of tourism in the region, from the Santa Fe Railway's exploitation of the Grand Canyon and its resident Native American tribes to dude ranching, skiing, gambling, 'ecotourism,' and other activities."

James Clifford, professor of the history of consciousness at the University of California at Santa Cruz and author of Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late 20th Century (Harvard, 1997).

"It has always been hard to take tourists seriously. By definition, they are superficial, herdlike, and ugly. But Jean-Didier Urbain's L'idiot du voyage (Plon, 1991) skewers anti-tourist discourses with wit and erudition, reconnecting tourism to its alter ego, sophisticated 'travel.' Similarly, Ruth Phillips's finely argued and documented Trading Identities: The Souvenir in Native North American Art from the Northeast, 1700-1900 (Washington, 1998) dissolves the modern category of 'tourist art,' tracing the souvenir trade in the Great Lakes region over several centuries. And she provides something still rare in the literature: a developed account of Native American interests--cultural, political, and aesthetic--in the exchange. Orvar Löfgren's On Holiday: A History of Vacationing (California, 1999) offers acute, whimsical, self-reflexive histories of sight-seeing, walking, driving, cottage life, landscapes, postcards, getaways, nostalgias, and especially the quest of sun-starved northern Europeans for the South."

Dean MacCannell, professor of landscape architecture at the University of California at Davis and author of The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class (California, 1999).

"Sight-seeing at famous natural, cultural, or historical attractions, once decried as 'pseudo,' now seems quaintly authentic when compared with a visit to the Mall of America, Disney World, or Las Vegas. Meticulously researched and highly readable, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett's Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage (California, 1998) describes how classic tourist destinations like the Louvre, the Grand Canyon, and the Acropolis now emulate theme parks and mega-malls, while museums play kitsch-up with commercial attractions, leaving nothing to the tourist's imagination. In On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art, and Place (New Press, 1999), Lucy Lippard turns her curatorial attention to a wide array of tourist attractions, from rural New England and Santa Fe to local 'popular collections' and the sites of tragedies. She shows how artists incorporate these places into their art, suggesting that artists and tourists can reclaim sight-seeing from the commercial entertainment industry."

John Hannigan, professor of sociology at the University of Toronto and author of Fantasy City: Pleasure and Profit in the Postmodern Metropolis (Routledge, 1998).

"Spectacular Nature: Corporate Culture & the Sea World Experience (California, 1997), Susan Davis's multilayered and very readable ethnography of San Diego's most-visited destination, seamlessly fuses political economy and cultural analysis. The 'Sea World experience,' she demonstrates, is designed to exploit middle-class fantasies about nature tourism as a form of self-improvement and as a source of cultural capital. Another top-notch case study with a social-constructionist outlook is Rosalie Schwartz's Pleasure Island: Tourism and Temptation in Cuba (Nebraska, 1997). In the 1920s, and again in the 1950s, entrepreneurial but corrupt political elites on the island, in economic partnership with American businessmen, built an infrastructure of hotels, country clubs, racetracks, casinos, and nightclubs, sheathing them in a contrived wrapper of Afro-Cuban exoticism. With a third cycle of Cuban tourism now picking up speed, Schwartz's sparkling and evocative historical narrative is especially timely and instructive."

Patrick Holland, professor of English at the University of Guelph and co-author with Graham Huggan of Tourists With Typewriters: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Travel Writing (Michigan, 1998).

"Black Sea, by Neal Ascherson (Hill & Wang, 1996), and Book of Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland, by Rebecca Solnit (Verso, 1997), are both accounts by sensitive and well-informed travelers who demonstrate richly nuanced engagement with the regions they address. Too often, travel writers treat identity and ethnicity as simple, transparent concepts. Ascherson and Solnit avoid this trap, complicating the already layered histories of the Black Sea region and Ireland with explorations of ethnicity, migration, and nomadism. Not only do these two books provide eloquent accounts of their authors' chosen terrains, but they also make for refreshing detours from the often clichÈd highway of the travelogue."

--John Palattella

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