The Anti-Tourist in Thailand: A New Theory of the (Post)Modern Literary Class
Connecting the nineteenth-century fin de siécle's tourist/traveller binary with contemporary literary travel writing of the late twentieth century, my paper proposes that new, anti-tourist trends are currently resurfacing, mediated by Hollywoodisms and postmodern subjectivities, in order to establish the "anti-tourist" as an important category in cultural critiques of travel. My specific emphasis on contemporary anti-tourism moves beyond current criticism by connecting a new kind of mainstreamed anti-tourist with a rapidly-emerging genre: "literary" travel. Shelved somewhere between fiction/non-fiction and geography/politics, literary travel texts remain commercial, despite common authorial claims for presenting "authentic" experiences. Thus, like their declared enemies, writers countering tourism's economic exploitation simultaneously create new consumerisms by selling their tales to non-traditional audiences, often reproducing the approaches they claim to oppose. Unlike traditional tourists, however, the anti-tourist writers I'm examining don't define their experiences principally via a host country, but versus other travellers, a self-identification common since the original fin de siécle. What's new, therefore, isn't the general formulation of this backlash, but its specific resurfacing within the (post)modernist era. What's new, as evidenced by the sensationalized 2000 film version of Alex Garland's The Beach, is the entrance into mainstream public discourse of a newly institutionalized anti-tourism. Tenets that used to be exclusive to writers like Pico Iyer and Taras Grescoe have now been adopted by reality TV shows (e. g. Survivor, The Amazing Race), which pose isolated, adventurous trips as moral quests for the real. In this sense, what's emerged is an anti-tourism that connects the current literary travel industry to the original fin de siécle. Limited to a case study of Thai anti-tourism, my paper will concentrate on a reading of Alex Garland's "The Beach" (1996), and the subsequent big budget film (2000) starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Keywords: Tourism, Travel Cultures, Literary Travel Genre, Thailand, History of Anti-Tourist Cultures, Contemporary Creative Non-Fiction, Postmodern Subjectivity
Mr Rob Winger
Doctoral Student, Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture Cultural Mediations Ph. D. Programme , Carleton University, Ottawa