Going Away to Find Home: A Comparative Study of Heritage/Homeland Tourism

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In this dissertation I explore the "homing desire" (Brah 1996:193) of American diasporas. I argue and show how identities are constructed as primordial. Specifically, I am interested in how homeland tourism, group tour experiences to ancestral homelands can be used as a "charter for new social projects" (Appadurai 1996:6) based around ancestral lands of origin and the qualities we associate with home. Therefore, this dissertation examines what happens when imagined communities (Anderson 1993) become briefly tangible.

I present analysis of participant observation and interview data from three different American populations to examine the very real desire to belong to a meaningful and worthwhile group. I map how secular college-aged American Jews, middle-class African Americans and white families with adopted Chinese daughters shape and define the imagined community through the brief face-to-face experience of the group homeland tour.

This dissertation takes the reader on tour, and analyzes the sites/sights of homeland travel, interactions between tourists, and interactions between tourists and homeland natives arguing that these experiences are consumed and interpreted to then define the individual and community's place in the social world and in the process influence domestic experiences of otherness.

Individuals engage with larger systems of organization that incorporate and implicate both the nation they reside within and the place they have chosen to visit, representing a distinctly Western and American path to imagined communities. While tourists look internationally to discover heritage and roots, I demonstrate how many expect and anticipate domestic changes and domestic acceptance of difference. In addition, tourism also facilitates global thinking, where homeland discoveries become examples of another sort of grounding in community, belonging to the cosmopolitan international global imagined.

In all these examples of empowerment and the assumed benefits of homeland explorations, we see the American, the transnational, and the global intersecting. This dissertation teases apart the multiple forms of movement occurring simultaneously that represent our contemporary moment. Therefore, I argue that this desire for rootedness and comfort that comes with knowing one's homeland reveals more about our contemporary moment and our individualistic approach to community consciousness than essential aspects of our identity and community. Homeland tours therefore provide Americans with experiences of international travel and a sense of global enlightenment, based not on heritage, but an understanding of global connectivity and power relations.

Through a comparative examination of three different engagements with homeland tourism, I examine how individuals not only tell a story to themselves about themselves, but also speak to the larger world. This dissertation therefore is a journey itself, a journey to belonging and discovery of community.






Powers, Jillian (2011). Going Away to Find Home: A Comparative Study of Heritage/Homeland Tourism. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/3855.


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