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Department of Sociology at Lancaster University 2 3. How is it that not only people travel but also cultures travel?
1. What are the main ways in which people have begun to think about
and to conceptualise the contemporary citizen as being ‘on the move’?
First then, commentators often now refer to the nomadic quality of contemporary social list. Thus du Gay describes the significance of the Sony Walkman:
It is virtually an extension of the skin. It is fitted, moulded, like so much else in modern consumer culture, to the body itself ... It is designed for movement - for mobility, for people who are always out and about, for travelling light. It is part of the required equipment of the modern ‘nomad’ ... it is testimony to the high value which the culture of late-modernity places on mobility (1997: 23-4).
Deleuze and Guattari somewhat similarly elaborate on the implications of nomads, which they see as external to each state (1986: 49-53). Nomads characterise societies characterised ‘de- territorialisation’. These societies are constituted by lines of flight rather than by points or nodes. Deleuze and Guattari maintain that: ‘The nomad has no points, paths or land .... If the nomad can be called the Deterritorialized par excellence, it is precisely because there is no reterritorialization afterwards as with the migrant’ (1986: 52). Such nomads present particular conflicts for states whose fundamental task is ‘to striate the space over which it reigns ... not only to vanquish nomadism, but to control migrations and, more generally, to establish a zone of rights over an entire "exterior", over all the flows’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1986: 59).
More generally, such nomadic deterritorialisation has been articulated as a way of challenging academic disciplines and hegemonic cultures, to ‘marginalize the centre’ and especially the masculinist, imperial, white and academic cultures of the ‘west’ (see Kaplan 1996: chap 2). Nomadism is associated with the notion that academic and political writing can itself be conceived of as a journey. In order to theorise one leaves home and travels. There is no ‘home’ or fixed point from which the theorist departs and then returns. The theorist is seen as travelling hopefully, neither being at home or away (see Clifford 1997).
Braidotti proposes a new ‘interconnected nomadism’ to develop multiple, transverse ways of thinking through the complex and diverse patterns of women’s lives (1994). Feminists, she argues, should develop a nomadic consciousness. Braidotti notes that she has ‘special affection for the places of transit that go with travelling: stations and airport lounges, trams, shuttle buses and check-in areas. In between zones where all ties are suspended and time stretched to a sort of continuous present’ (1994: 18-9). Chambers refers to this as the flâneur becoming the plâneur (1990).
More generally Makimoto and Manners argue that we have entered a new nomadic age. Over the next decade, with digitisation, most of the facilities of home and the office will be carried around on the body or at least in a small bag, making those that can afford such objects ‘geographically independent’ (Makimoto and Manners 1997: 2). Such people will be ‘free to live where they want and travel as much as they want’ - they will be forced to consider whether they are settlers or really ‘global nomads’ (1997: 6).
Other commentators have however criticised these nomadic metaphors. Bauman dispenses with the nomadic metaphor on the grounds that actual desert nomads do in fact move from place to place in a strictly regular fashion (1993: 240). For Bauman, both the vagabond and the tourist are more plausible metaphors for post-modern times since they do not involve such regularised mobility. The vagabond, he says, is a pilgrim without a destination, a nomad without an itinerary; while the tourist ‘pay[s] for their freedom; the right to disregard native concerns and feelings, the right to spin their own web of meanings ... The world is the tourist’s oyster ... to be lived pleasurably - and thus given meaning’ (Bauman 1993: 241). Both vagabonds and tourists move through other people’s spaces, they both involve the separation of physical closeness from moral proximity, and both set standards for happiness and the good life. For Bauman the good life has come to be thought of as somewhat akin to a ‘continuous holiday’ (1993: 243).
Feminists have criticised the masculinist character of many of these nomadic and travel metaphors since they suggest that there is ungrounded and unbounded movement; yet
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