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Travel and celebrity culture: an introduction

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 23:46 authored by Robert ClarkeRobert Clarke
In the West, travel has long afforded opportunities for fame beyond the strictures of class, gender and caste, and travel writing has served as one of the principal media through which celebrity associated with travel has been produced, circulated and consumed. Likewise, celebrity, generally conceived, has conferred on those whom Francesco Alberoni terms the 'powerless elite', freedom in many spheres of modern life; and in modernity few formations have come to represent freedom with quite the force of travel. Yet despite the relatively recent academic focus on travel and celebrity, particularly with respect to their relevance to understanding the dynamics and relations of power in colonial and postcolonial cultures, the relationship between these fields is relatively unexplored. Modern Western travel culture, like celebrity, it could be said, has played a dubious role in the development of capitalist democratic cultures, as a force and symbol of enfranchisement and liberation, on the one hand, and equally of containment and exploitation, on the other. Both travel and celebrity are of particular relevance to postcolonial studies given their ambivalent meanings and functions in the dynamics of appropriation, domination, resistance and reconciliation that distinguish local, regional and transnational colonialisms and postcolonizing dynamics. In particular, both command attention for the 'identity work' they afford various readers and audiences. In recent scholarship, travel has been figured either as oppressive and colonizing, or as a force for disruption, hybridity and liberation. Likewise, celebrity has been represented ambiguously as either emblematic of the degeneration in public tastes, authority and authenticity, or as a vector through which alternative and anti-hegemonic politics and identities may be embodied and emboldened. The inherent duplicity of celebrity and travel as institutions, discursive systems and forms of symbolic power in societies experiencing colonial and postcolonial modernity, as well as their historical entanglements, invites closer examination of these relationships. This special issue of Postcolonial Studies provides a departure point for such an examination.


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Postcolonial Studies








School of Humanities



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Copyright 2009 The Institute of Postcolonial Studies

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