Saturday, April 26, 2014

Interdisciplinary Journeys: The death of community and the rise of individuali...

Interdisciplinary Journeys: The death of community and the rise of individuali...: Image by Moyan Brenn, Flickr Creative Commons I am intrigued by the well-developed Wikipedia en...

The death of community and the rise of individualised tourist mobilities

Image by Moyan Brenn, Flickr Creative Commons

I am intrigued by the well-developed Wikipedia entry (25 April 2014) on ‘individualism’. Its exploration of the concept’s journey in philosophical, psychosocial and political terms would appeal to interdisciplinary students: ‘an individual is a person or any specific object in a collection’ the author(s) note. ‘Individuality is the state or quality of being an individual; a person separate from other persons and possessing his or her own needs, goals, and desires’. Intriguingly, the need for un-divided human existence runs against the dominant Cartesian discourse as much as it parts ways with socialist ideologies of collectivising, communicating and ‘communing’ in life as a group. Individuals can be, according to pious preachers, only if they do not concentrate in egotistical objectives (exclusively or at all). Aristotle’s zóon politikón (or political animal-being) suggests that the human monad can only flourish (or survive, according to Enlightenment scholars such as David Hume [Morris 2013]) in harmonious, well-ordered (and governed) polities. Yet, post-modern lifestyles encourage individuals to part ways with the community in search of experiences they can only collect through various combinations of embodied and cognitive travel.

Why tourism is so closely connected to individualisation in contemporary societies? If (according to some theorists) social fragmentation is the worst of contemporary ailments, personal reflexivity should be fortified by intersubjective (physical and/or cognitive) interaction to create relational human beings. In fact, one may note that the Western quest for freedom of the Self seems to clash with popular tourist trends such as that of family tourism, in which personal biographies co-exist with collective ones and memories are simultaneously individual and collective (Halbwachs 1992). Even the neo-nomadic ethos of post-modern mobilities (including professional migration, experimental tourism and film tourism) appears to pair personal pursuit off with shared interests in travel ‘themes’ (Cohen 2011; Cohen, Duncan & Thulemark 2013): tourists grant their movement through landscapes and performances with meaning only in relation to travel companions and shared experiences en route. In all these scenarios, post-modern tourists and their tourist mobilities, however critiqued, can act as egotistical creative agents or forces (Skoll & Korstanje 2014).

But such phenomena might not be developing in simplistically binary ways (a Cartesian habit we struggle to forsake). I would argue that individualisation (the process of becoming an individual) and individualism (the corresponding ideology or post-modern ‘cult’) gesture towards holism, the return to a uniform Self. If the utopian ‘community’ was lost with modernisation and cannot be retrieved any longer, we can still pick up the pieces of the Self and put them together in its stead. Thus the tourist monad (or ‘nomad’) fills the haunting gap of ‘community’ with unanticipated consequences for humanity.

Cohen, S.A. (2011) ‘Lifestyle travellers: Backpacking as a way of life’, Annals of Tourism Research, 38(4):117–33.
Cohen, S.A., Duncan, T. and Thulemark, M. (2013) ‘Lifestyle mobilities: The crossroads of travel, leisure and migration’ Mobilities. HTTP:
Halbwachs, M. (1992) On Collective Memory. Edited & Translated by Lewis A. Coser. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
Morris, W.E. (Spring 2013 Edition) ‘David Hume’, in Edward N. Zalta (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Online), Stanford: Stanford University Press. HTTP:
Skoll, G.R. & Korstanje, M. (2014)’Urban heritage, gentrification and tourism in Riverwest and Albasto’, Journal of Heritage Tourism. HTTP:
Wikipedia (25 April 2014) ‘Individualism’. HTTP: