An Inquiry into the Tourist Age
By Marco D'ramo Published in English in 2021
We were all tourists at some point in our lives. So, why did we look down on people taking selfies in front of the Tower of Pisa? What licensed our condescension? Was there really much to distinguish the package holiday from hipster city-breaks to Berlin or Brooklyn? Why did we invest so much in an activity we professed to despise?
The World in a Selfie offers a spirited critique of the cultural politics of a tourist age that, at least for a while, has come to an end with the pandemic. Marco d’Eramo investigates what might happen if that virus-inspired pause proves permanent. Tourism is not just the most important industry of our century, generating huge waves of people and capital, calling forth a dedicated infrastructure, and upsetting and repurposing the architecture and topography of our cities. It also encapsulates the problem of modernity: the search for authenticity in a world of ersatz pleasures.
D’Eramo retraces the grand tours of the first globetrotters – from Francis Bacon and Samuel Johnson to Arthur de Gobineau and Mark Twain – before assessing the cultural meaning of the beach holiday, the ‘UNESCO-cide’ of major heritage sites, and the impossibility of tourism during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Will the industry recover from the coronavirus lockdowns or has self-isolation taken away our wanderlust – not to mention the earnings to pay for it? The impact of an end to tourism will be immense but, as d’Eramo suggests, may also be liberating.
About the Author
Marco D’Eramo is an Italian journalist and social theorist. He worked at the newspaper il manifesto for over thirty years. He writes for New Left Review, MicroMega and the Berlin daily Die Tageszeitung. His books include The Pig and the Skyscraper, which has been translated into several languages.
I really didn't know what to expect when I received this book to review. It's definitely opened my eyes to just what damage tourism can do. I had no idea how the ski slopes, which are for fun and obviously professional sport, are causing untold problems to the ground beneath. I don't think people realise that everywhere now is becoming a tourist attraction and somewhere to escape to.
I suggest everybody reads this book especially now after all of the lockdowns we've had due to the Covid Pandemic, and that they take stock and appreciate what they've got at home, and not to go flying round the world to sit on a beach as a way of escape. I hope they think of the damage to the environment that's caused, decide not to add to it, enjoy what they have nearer home and at the same time treat all destinations as the precious places they are.
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