The cruise ship



Publication Details

Steel, F. (2016). The cruise ship. In K. Alexeyeff & J. Taylor (Eds.), Touring Pacific Cultures (pp. 61-71). Acton, Australia: ANU Press.

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ANU Press


The late nineteenth-century cruise ship was more than a mode of transport, ferrying white tourists to island shores; it was a destination in and of itself. In Michel Foucault's formulation, the ship might be conceived of as 'a floating piece of space, a place without a place that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea'.1 This assumes a deep-ocean location. A ship docked at the wharf or lying at anchor in harbour was a space where rituals of entry and exit took on particular significance. Attending to the flows from shore to ship, rather than following European passengers as they disembarked and toured port towns or wandered along native tracks and through villages, opens up new angles of vision on the sites and spaces of colonial tourism. Indigenous Islanders boarded the ship, also as mobile subjects and consumers of different sights, sounds and new encounters. These reversals direct us to the highly contextual and negotiated nature of colonial touring and, in so doing, raise new questions about the touristic value and meaning attached to the novel, exotic and unfamiliar.

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