Fullagar, S. (2002) 'Narratives of travel: desire and the movement of feminine subjectivity', in Leisure Studies, Vol 21, No 1: 57 - 74.
[This is obviously going to be difficult to summarise bercause it is so poetic and so determinedly resistant to male academic techniques of summary and conceptual domination. Just a few points then really -- do try the original]
The concept of desire needs to be rethought. It is more than just 'motivation', but rather a whole 'social relation that structures the everyday dynamics between the self and other, self and world' (57). It is not enough to study ideologies such as consumerism to explain the experiecne of tourism. We need to engage in textual analysis, the analysis of metaphors and narratives of travel which affect women and their desire to 'move into the world and engage with difference' (57). The author's own travel diaries record various disturbances and dislocations in her travels, 'liminal or heterotopic moments', which lead to 'possibilities of glimpsing other modes of desire and hence different ethical relations between self and other, self and world' (57) [only ethical relations?].
The road has been seen metaphorically as 'the space of desire'. It structures experience, promises, and leaves memories behind. This metaphor is found in much Western and postcolonial work involving 'the trope of the exotic and the primitive other' (57). Travel is connected with mastery, but it can be open enough to allow multiple desires and a certain incompleteness -- 'the other can never be known fully or authentically' (58), which leads to the need to revise the old distinction between authentic travellers and inauthentic tourists. The wish to encounter otherness is the important issue.
French feminism offers a number of insights, especially with its critique of male binaries (which might include the work/leisure binary). Male subjectivity has tended to dominate theory with female subjectivity as a mirror image, opposite, or absolute other. We need deconstruction of language and the symbolic economy to open up female difference. Leisure and travel offer such a space (citing Wearing 1998, via Foucault on heterotopia and see file). Rather than pursuing an attempt to disconnect from the symbolic and material economy of desire, we might try instead to begin with 'the desire to know the self, others and the world' (59). Travel can become liminal and transitional, used to embody this basic desire. It can operate both metaphorically, as a form of escape, and offer real or concrete chances of actual encounters.
It is not just enough to ask for more post-structuralist feminist theories of leisure, as Rojek does (Rojek 2000). Rojek himself might have pursued more of the work of Butler on the notion of performative identity and culture. Decentring leisure does not go far enough, because it is insufficient gendered as a project. This affects Rojek's work on escape and its limits. In particular, postmodern identity is not the same as post structural feminist identity, and to claim so is to offer a false universal.
Discourses about travel range from early work on the attempts to grasp female identity as cultural constructs were unravelled, to new emphasis on writing as essential to the construction of subjectivity. There are lots of travel metaphors in creative writing according to Cixous, for example -- notions of becoming, embarking on a voyage and so on. These are always involved with experience, however, and travel stories are always intertextual. Personal examples can be chosen which highlight the notion of disturbance and pleasure, and travel as a feminist rite of passage (examples on page 60). Fullagar was also influenced by de Beauvoir, who travelled as 'a passionate encounter with the sensuous world', an 'embodied form of knowledge' (61). Fullagar's own travels in Asia, chosen as particularly likely to be other, led to her imagining different forms of collective feminist travelling.
Can travel be seen as a quest for identity? It can be used to disrupt conventional route to knowledge, which are male dominated. For example, the notion of identity usually involves mastery. However, Nietzsche's Zarathustra was also about wandering as a route to knowledge, involving the abandonment of self and an openness to what is unknown. This kind of travel heads for liminal spaces, and is prepared to experience vulnerability and tension. [Fullagar's own diaries record these experiences as she struggles to climb a mountain and reflects upon paradoxes of mastery, the Protestant ethic, and the joy of solo effort, and the desire to grasp and know the world as an object. For her, a 'phallocentric mind-body opposition was at work' here (63).]
Conventionally, the exotic is closely related to the notion of 'home', and experience is accumulated as a form of cultural capital, reflecting 'a masculine economy of desire that values the accumulation of worldly knowledge and the achievement of individual action' (63). Here, otherness becomes a mere 'mirror to secure identity' (64). However, any security can only be fleeting given the risks of encountering otherness, resulting in a constant dissatisfaction because otherness can never be fully mastered. Her own experiences reveal the precariousness of mastery and autonomy and her vulnerabilities. This resulted in a recognition of the need for others, a new and positive desire for them which exceeds the attempt to subdue and negate the other. It involves a letting go, an opening to experience [with lots of references to Hegel]. This can provide an unusual intensity of experience which has still not been theorised, partly because any attempt to use conventional language subdues it, even the language of emotion. This feeling is liminal, embodied, and about 'incipience' (65). It is often experienced as disorientation, a combination of joy and despair, a split subjectivity.
It can be felt bodily, as a form of 'corporeal excess' (65), leading to a desire to engage, 'a desire for the journey' (66). Feminist writing gets closest to expressing this view, with its themes of openness, dispersal, becoming the other, transformations, a particular kind of 'feminine jouissance' (66, citing Cixous). It is a sensual celebration of difference. [There are more extracts from the diaries where Fullagar experiences this joyous loss of self by undertaking a journey on camel back]. Knowing becomes a matter of experience of otherness rather than interpreting or grasping it conceptually. There is a full immersion in the present, a 'desire to disappear' (68) rather than to transcend. [Another extract reports 'rapture'on watching Indian dance, registered on the body, a new intensity and aliveness leading to the question 'where do I end and the other begin?' (68)]. Of course there must be more normal moments too, pauses and returns to 'home' [thoughts prompted by a visit to war refugees in Thailand who were experiencing a 'bad' form of exile]. Again the anti-home elements in travel writing are classically male: feminists can experience the paradoxes [of otherness and sameness] very well by visiting other people's homes.
The piece ends by citing Irigaray and the apparent need for women to have boundaries, but not the splits found in male defined roles. Feminist boundaries are to protect them from male engulfment. Women need rhythms of travel and return. This is not the same as a kind of complete and undifferentiated constant movement, as in postmodernism. The body is still a home for Irigaray. The travel diaries show the need to maintain relatively open boundaries, which is best achieved by travelling with other women to avoid the male gaze. Despite ethnic differences, and there may be a need to deconstruct 'whiteness', women tend to value each other.
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