ROUTES by James Clifford


Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century
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 A noted anthropologist examines the complexities of human interaction across cultures and continents in a densely academic but revelatory collection of essays. ``How do groups negotiate themselves in external relationships, and how is a culture also a site of travel for others?'' These are two of the broad questions raised by Clifford (History of Consciousness/Univ. of Calif., Santa Clara) in pursuit of his admonition that ``new representational strategies are needed, and are, under pressure, emerging.'' Thus does Clifford discuss diasporic and migratory peoples, unexplored Western influences on indigenous peoples, and the effects of new communication technologies on the global movement of people. Writing on the changing nature of ethnographic fieldwork, Clifford notes that such work was customarily centered on a ``localization'' of natives under the erroneous belief that while Western cultures were ``restless and expansive,'' the rest of humanity was ``rooted and immobile.'' Clifford points to the ways an indigenous culture's artifacts are displayed by former colonial powers; a ``contact zone'' in the basement of the Portland Art Museum brings together Tlingit elders and museum staff while continuing ``the ongoing power imbalances of contact relation.'' Other ``contacts'' Clifford chronicles are fleeting snippets: his own recollections of traveling by subway from one New York City cultural outpost to another; his family's Barbadian cleaning woman; a day in Honolulu in 1991 encompassing impressions of the Chinese New Year and the Persian Gulf War. Elsewhere, Clifford focuses on the political and economic consequences of recent transnational movements; he warns against construing an ``ideal type'' of diasporic people, particularly in light of modern communication and travel technology and changing economies. Nearly all peoples, he maintains, are travelers in one way or another. Controversial in places, self-evident in others--and slow going for the casual reader--but overall a fresh and well- documented perspective on human global movement. (40 photos)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-674-77960-6
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Harvard Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1997