Travelers tend to fetishize an impossible notion of authenticity

“Once globalization and development have homogenized and sanitized the world – quite often for the best – it will no longer be possible for even the most self-indulgent and romantic among us to maintain the illusion that what we are doing is anything other than not-particularly-glorified tourism. If all the classic elements of backpacker stories have gradually become clichés, we might as well pause to acknowledge that they were surprisingly fun clichés while they lasted. And if we now insist that all these clichés fetishize a certain impossible notion of authenticity, while coming dangerously close to essentializing foreign countries as premodern, we should also pause to confess that we enjoyed them anyway.”
–Nicholas Danforth, World travel can be all about timing, San Francisco Chronicle, September 20, 2012

Posted by | Comments (2)  | March 2, 2015
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

2 Responses to “Travelers tend to fetishize an impossible notion of authenticity”

  1. Greg Hubbs Says:

    One the flip side(s), the those who are visited, as communicated to those who have lived for long periods amongst locals — realizing one always remains an outsider of course — generally sense that such tendencies to fetishize are both condescending and naive.

    In my experience, locals often tend to mock those who gaze upon them either romantically or as with the blank eyes of culture consumers as being authentic “primitives” or “authetic” humans. Even the great cynical New Yorker tourist or the contemporary hipster, for example, often seems to think they have sized up a culture while behaving in a manner revealing to locals their own complete naivete or utter insensitivity as to the layers of complexity inherent in human societies everywhere. Intuition is not owned by anyone, and is a sixth sense that crosses cultures as does irony.

    The failure to realize that human beings of all cultures have the same universal traits but different forms of ritual and symbolism often leads to condescension or perhaps even false romanticism–but even the naivete underlying the tendency to fetishize is human-all-too-human, to be fair.

  2. Greg Hubbs Says:

    Sorry for typos!