From Here to Tierra del Fuego
Awards and Recognition:
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2009
Surrealistic in style and content, this intellectual tour guide into the nature of tourists and tourism is a theoristís field trip, engaged in upside-down anthropology, ethnography, and culture studies to arrive out on the other side of emergent global culture and the nature of personhood. Quirky and difficult, but fun.
Tierra del Fuego is the southernmost inhabited locale in the world and one of South America's most popular tourist destinations, although there's nothing there except "the end of the world."
When asked why they have come to Tierra del Fuego, most visitors say, "I just wanted to be able to say I'd been here." Paul Magee, the anthropologist among them, seizes upon this absurd nonreason to investigate the West's complex relationship to an island synonymous with the word elsewhere.
Beginning with Darwin, who saw the Fuegian Indians as the world's most primitive inhabitants, Magee interweaves the offhand anecdotes of nineteenth-century colonial adventurers with the primitivist jokes of the travelers he encounters. Reading these self-superior texts through the theories and commentaries of Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, Michael Taussig, Theodor Adorno, and others, Magee explores the West's obsession with seeing its commodities, from Coke bottles to cakes of Pears' Soap, as objects of native fascination and fetishism.
Bringing the trivial, the offhand, and the anecdotal into the space of politics, Magee demonstrates how these links between them and the genocidal colonization of the island implicate even the casual, overtly purposeless tourist in the exploitative structures of global capitalism.
Experimental, entertaining, and occasionally over the top, From Here to Tierra del Fuego maneuvers through a history of racial violence, primitivist fantasy, and throwaway lines to reveal the international tourist industry's role in contemporary world power.
"Not only an entertaining romp through centuries of faulty Fuegan portrayals and anthropological theory, but also an enlightening (and at times frightening) view of global capitalism and the traveler's naive role in contemporary world power schemes on the edge of nowhere." -- Virginia Quarterly Review
"A brilliant and insightful and often witty (and often poetic -- and always exotic) discussion of . . . why we travel, the purpose of postage stamps, nationalism (and the deadly nature of it), 'primitivism,' neo-colonialism, fetishes, the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, monuments, surrealism, time-travel, Freud, 'remembering the future,' Marx . . . and the Marx Brothers." -- Editor's Pick's, Ralph Magazine
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