Why do we travel?
Travelling has long been an ideal for humanity. But why? We might wonder now whether it was the pragmatic search for food and water or the lofty desire for knowledge and adventure that first inspired humans to go beyond the limits of their known terrain. Whatever the reason, they quickly learnt that travelling could bring riches and power on one hand, or death and destruction on the other.
Such dramatic outcomes of travel were among topics explored during the Travel Research Network’s inaugural conference “Travel Ideals: Engaging with Spaces of Mobility” at the University of Melbourne recently.
An intiative of the Faculty of Arts, the conference kicked off with a keynote by Walter Mangold Visiting Fellow, Professor Mary Louise Pratt of New York University. Professor Pratt challenged views on travel as a privilege of the elite or the last resort of the oppressed, and questioned whether the right to stay rather than go might reveal new paradigms for interpreting mobility in the modern world.
“Where and in what ways is it illuminating to reflect on travel not as the moving of a body or set of bodies, but as the enactment or unfolding of relations between placed bodies (stayers) and dis-placed bodies (movers)?” she asked.
From Rabelais’ Renaissance ramblings to tourism after Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, papers ranged across colonialism, feminism, dark tourism, student exchanges, narratives of travel, creative methods and visual cultures, with speakers travelling to Melbourne from around the world.
Special events included a presentation on vintage Air France posters at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, illustrated with items from their collection, and a controversial panel on Medical Tourism in Asia hosted by ABC Radio National’s Amanda Smith from The Body Sphere.
The Travel Research Network was established in 2011 by a dozen academics from all five Schools in the Faculty of Arts – representing languages, literatures, history, politics, cultural studies, cinema studies, anthropology, media and communications. The network now comprises over 100 engaged researchers and is growing into an Australian focus on travel research, linked into networks in Berkeley, Paris and Quebec.
The next travel event will be the Australian Festival of Travel Writing from 22-24 February 2013 in Melbourne. This public-orientated multimedia event will include targeted workshops for incoming international students and outgoing exchange students to increase their awareness and skills in facing intercultural, environmental and economic concerns associated with travelling today.