Publication Details

Waitt, G. & Macquarie, P. (2014). Travel-as-homemaking. In G. Lean, R. Staiff & E. Waterton (Eds.), Travel and Imagination (pp. 53-71). Farnham, United Kingdom: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.


In recent years tourism studies has become enlivened by incorporating the influential ‘performance turn’. Approaching the study of tourism from the perspective of entire bodies and different bodies has challenged conceptualization of subjectivity, senses and space in tourism studies not as separate realms but as co-constituted. An embodied approach in tourism encompasses a variety of issues and topics including challenging heteronormativity (Johnston 2001), problematizing Urry’s (1990) tourist gaze (Jordan and Aitchison 2008, Urry and Larsen 2011), paying attention to the sensual body (Saldanha 2002, Waitt and Duffy 2010) as well as extending research agendas by focusing on the role of emotions and affect (Johnston 2007). The shift from representational to embodied approaches acknowledges that people do so much more when they travel than only read guidebooks, advertisements, go on sightseeing tours and take photographs. Places are never sensed and made sense of by sight alone.

In this chapter we present some findings of a research project that addresses an embodied approach to travel and imagination. This chapter is about evocations of home in leisure travel narratives; and how home is differently imagined and re-imagined in relation to return travel. Drawing on feminist, post-structural, geographical theory on ‘the body’, our basic argument is that imagination is always embodied and spatial and becomes a means to shape and reshape ourselves and places. We focus on the themes of imaginaries, travel and homemaking, enabling us to address three concerns. First, our concern is with the more routine forms of travel that have tended to be overlooked in a field of study normally more focused on the extraordinary rather than the everyday. As Towner (1995: 339– 42) pointed out, tourism studies tends to be ‘concerned with the more remarkable travel events in people’s lives’. Overlooked are the seemingly more mundane everyday activities that are part of ‘remarkable’ travel events, such as waiting in airports and sitting in hotel lobbies, as well as the ‘remarkable’ travel events found in everyday activities, as in our case study, walking through a nearby rainforest. Second, our concern is with domesticating mobility. As noted by Franklin and Crang (2001: 11): ‘So often mobility has meant travel and excitement, and freedom from the domestic, a flight from a feminized realm.’ Domesticating mobility requires remaining alert to how elsewheres may be also part of the home realm. Third, our concern is with a field of tourism studies that is becoming sensually more diverse through emphasizing the body and taking on board the sensuous, embodied and performative dimensions of travel.

The empirical data for this chapter are drawn from a larger project investigating the importance of the Illawarra Escarpment in the lives of people living in Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. The project used diaries, walk-alongs, home-visits and a form of ethnographic narrative analysis to offer insights about the relationship between the imaginary, travel and homemaking. The Illawarra Escarpment is comprised of a line of cliffs of Hawkesbury Sandstone that runs for over 100 kilometers almost parallel with the coastline from Stanwell Park in the north, to Nowra in the south (see Figure 4.1). For people living in metropolitan Wollongong, the Escarpment is a highly visible, iconic feature, rising almost vertically to a height of 400 metres. The Escarpment is also the western boundary of the metropolitan area. Historically, urban encroachment onto the Escarpment was limited by a combination of distance from metropolitan centres, restricted access, geological instability, as well as large coal mining leases. More recently, the declaration of biodiversity conservation zoning measures to ‘protect’ the Escarpment as habitat has limited urban development. The escarpment is part of Dharawal country that includes the Wadi Wadi, Korawal, Elouera, Jerrungarugh and Tharawal clans. Aboriginal knowledge of escarpment places is forged by the stories and songs of the Alcheringa . The Aboriginal cultural significance of escarpment places is neither obviously marked to the non-Aboriginal eye nor incorporated into management plans. Some non-Aboriginal residents may be familiar with how the Alcheringa provides insights to the law and spirit of the country. However, only a person with kinship ties to country can gain full knowledge of the cultural significance and protocols prescribing normative behaviour of escarpment places (Berndt and Berndt 1988).

The chapter unfolds as follows. We begin by providing a conceptual framework to explore the intersection between the imaginary, travel and homemaking. Drawing on a feminist, post-structural ontology, bodies and spaces are mutually constitutive in our conceptualization of the imaginary. The concept of the imaginary which we are employing is therefore not one in which ‘invented’ worlds are contrasted to ‘real’ worlds. Imagined worlds are not conceptualized as inner, perceived, mental images that are projected onto a neutral, physical world. There is no neutral, objective world to which we can gain access. What exists in the world for us requires ‘the body’. In this chapter, to know something by imagination is to exist in a particular embodied relationship to one’s context or social space. This, in turn, has important implications for one’s ability to act, as well as one’s capacity to be acted upon. Next, we outline a justification for why Wollongong, and the northern Illawarra in particular, provides an interesting case study, and one relevant to investigating tourism as the extraordinary everyday. We then outline our methods. Finally, we explore how one participant, Janet, came to imagine the Illawarra Escarpment as simultaneously home and elsewhere. This tension between imagining the Illawarra Escarpment as home and elsewhere we argue is the outcome of embodied relationships of everyday walks and returning from travelling beyond the Illawarra.

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