This issue of Departures in Critical Qualitative Research (DCQR) takes up the theme and issue of travel in complex and compelling forms. The pieces in the collection take us on the American Expedition travel-study course in Yosemite National Park, CA; a series of Voodoo Tours in the heart of New Orleans, LA; a Youth Experience Tour in Masada National Park, Israel; to, through, and into roadside and digital tourism in the Irish Hills of Michigan; and an electronic dance music festival on the beaches of Goa, India. The authors use scrapbooking, performative autoethnography, touring and curation, and experimental writing to suggest the affective experience, texture, and dialogic critique generated by encounters in and through each of these sites. Each of the essays charts the confluence of bodies, languages, stories, and the materiality of the artifacts we make and carry through our encounters with geographic spaces. Memory, emotion, and movement work together to transform such spaces into affective places, creating “imaginative mobilities” through which we sense place and embody the territories of experience.1 Of course, we know that being mobile is not necessarily about freedom, travel, or transcendence.2 As Sarah Ahmed et al. put it, the question of the relation of being grounded and being mobile centers on how grounding and mobility are enacted—affectively, materially, and symbolically—in relation to one another.3
Dwight Conquergood notes that the ability to travel freely—geographically as well as bodily, affectively, and relationally—is accrued to and associated with the privilege, domination, and power of the ruling classes, and, by association, to the educated and literate middle class. It is a privilege, domination, and power performed in the academy's conception of (and obsession with) what Clifford Geertz describes as world-as-text.4 Conquergood argues for scholarship that bridges segregated and differently valued knowledges (practical, analytic, and political), drawing together “legitimated as well as subjugated modes of inquiry.”5 Such bridges refuse a binary division of labor between thinking and doing, interpreting and making, intellectual and experiential knowledge. The articles in this issue of DCQR demonstrate the power of travel and travel scholarship as bridging efforts that bring together inquiry, creative methods, and critical, emotional, and spatial geographies in complementary and complicated ways.
The collection opens with Sara Dykins Callahan's “Popping-a-Squat and Other Bits of Ephemera,” which explores the merging of affect theory and pedagogical practice in leading an American Expedition travel-study course in Yosemite National Park. Though a critical and performative scrapbook, Dykins Callahan argues that tourism studies courses taught through critical performative pedagogies not only train our attention on the embodied experiences of travel, but also position tourism as a meaning-filled human experience. Such an approach—however messy and demanding—refuses to reduce tourism to its economic, political, and cultural impacts on toured locations. Jennifer L. Erdely's “Touring Religion, Touring Ritual” also positions tourism as a meaning-filled experience, particularly as a framework for understanding the past as a means of moving in the present. Using autoethnographic methods, Erdely examines tourism as a ritual that helps make sense of, and in some cases heal, painful, traumatic pasts. Through the lens of the ritual aspects of several Voodoo Tours in New Orleans and via the spiritual figure of Marie Laveau, Erdely finds ways to overcome personal memories of sexual assault and to find healing in the process.
Ariel Gratch's “A Path to Masada” takes readers on a lively and experimental “tour” of Masada National Park as a central site for Youth Israel Experience Tours, and suggests that the meaning and significance of the holy site is found in the relationships among tourists at and on the site rather than the mythical stories told about the site. Set in the postindustrial, rural, and roadside tourism one encounters on a drive through the “Irish Hills,” part of the US rust belt and just southwest of Detroit, Lyndsay Michalik Gratch's “The Irish Hills of Michigan” uses performative curation—a hybrid of performative writing, collage, and digital content curation—to ask readers to take an active and ethical role in the virtual tour as a memory-provoking and meaning-making process.
The final article in the collection, Pavithra Prasad's “Sunburned,” considers how travel and global mobility is rendered through the prism of “epidermal vulnerability” of the sunburn. Prasad asks how skin itself transforms—and in so doing transforms us—when it travels and what it means for brown skin in particular to be marked by vacation travel. This critically performative essay opens up a space for considering how brownness (re)negotiates its relationality to whiteness in specific contexts of neoliberal globalization.
Taken together, the essay in this issue of DCQR enact an imaginative travel into and through kinesthetic performances of scholarship—recalling, documenting, mapping, and writing movement and travel as a “fluctuation [of the] restless energies that transgress boundaries and trouble closure.”6 Kinesthetic performances are dynamic; they create the sensation of movement and change, taking us places even when we have not boarded a plane, changed timezones, or wandered too far from home.