Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century / Edition 1

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Overview

When culture makes itself at home in motion, where does an anthropologist stand? In a follow-up to The Predicament of Culture, one of the defining books for anthropology in the last decade, James Clifford takes the proper measure: a moving picture of a world that doesn't stand still, that reveals itself en route, in the airport lounge and the parking lot as much as in the marketplace and the museum.

In this collage of essays, meditations, poems, and travel reports, Clifford takes travel and its difficult companion, translation, as openings into a complex modernity. He contemplates a world ever more connected yet not homogeneous, a global history proceeding from the fraught legacies of exploration, colonization, capitalist expansion, immigration, labor mobility, and tourism. Ranging from Highland New Guinea to northern California, from Vancouver to London, he probes current approaches to the interpretation and display of non-Western arts and cultures. Wherever people and things cross paths and where institutional forces work to discipline unruly encounters, Clifford's concern is with struggles to displace stereotypes, to recognize divergent histories, to sustain "postcolonial" and "tribal" identities in contexts of domination and globalization.

Travel, diaspora, border crossing, self-location, the making of homes away from home: these are transcultural predicaments for the late twentieth century. The map that might account for them, the history of an entangled modernity, emerges here as an unfinished series of paths and negotiations, leading in many directions while returning again and again to the struggles and arts of cultural encounter, the impossible, inescapable tasks of translation.

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Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe

[An] interesting situation can occur, suggests cultural anthropologist James Clifford, when the issue is not who should have custody of the objects [in museums] but rather what they mean. As he explores the subject in the essays collected in Routes, he compels the reader to look at these matters in a totally new way...As Clifford puts it, the museum [has] had to become 'a contact zone,' in which the collection would 'become part of an ongoing historical, political, moral relationship' between the culture that produced the objects and the members of another culture who would come to view them. The idea of a 'contact zone' relationship becomes even more startling when the objects are not in a museum, but are located at a cultural site...[G]uided by Clifford's view of museums and cultural and historical sites, the observant tourist will never be able to see them in the same way again.
— Michael Kenney

New Formations

The path Clifford clears for himself is amply justified; his scholarship is always careful, his questions honest and probing, his use of the first person discreet. One could not ask for a better informed, more intelligent or probing advance guard. Routes is a beautifully produced book with plentiful illustrations, an intelligent index, and almost no misprints.
— Peter Hulme

Times Literary Supplement

It is a measure of Clifford's nonchalant erudition that Routes gives rise to so many diverse ideas.
— Mark Abley

New Formations: A Journal of Culture/Theory/Politics

As his use of essay form might suggest, Clifford tends to be a scout or advance guard, a surveyor of terrain, a reporter of difficulties ahead, a clearer of ground; not himself a colonist or settler...Very much a cultural theorist for our times, Clifford's emphasis is on conceptual repertory that can be used in ways dialogic, contingent, and tactical...As Routes leaves us to think through the questions posed in its pages, Clifford will already be opening up new paths, formulating new terminologies, asking new questions...Ultimately, however, the path Clifford clears for himself is amply justified: his scholarship is always careful, his questions honest and probing, his use of the first person discreet. One could not ask for a better informed, more intelligent or probing advance guard. Routes is a beautifully produced book with plentiful illustrations [and] an intelligent index.
— Peter Hulme

Booklist
Whether discussing immigrants, diasporas, or museums, Clifford looks at the intercultural border as a place of encounter, collision, and communication between groups. This is a scholarly yet accessible work that asks us to rethink the cultural dimensions of human existence.
Boston Globe - Michael Kenney
[An] interesting situation can occur, suggests cultural anthropologist James Clifford, when the issue is not who should have custody of the objects [in museums] but rather what they mean. As he explores the subject in the essays collected in Routes, he compels the reader to look at these matters in a totally new way...As Clifford puts it, the museum [has] had to become 'a contact zone,' in which the collection would 'become part of an ongoing historical, political, moral relationship' between the culture that produced the objects and the members of another culture who would come to view them. The idea of a 'contact zone' relationship becomes even more startling when the objects are not in a museum, but are located at a cultural site...[G]uided by Clifford's view of museums and cultural and historical sites, the observant tourist will never be able to see them in the same way again.
New Formations - Peter Hulme
As his use of essay form might suggest, Clifford tends to be a scout or advance guard, a surveyor of terrain, a reporter of difficulties ahead, a clearer of ground; not himself a colonist or settler...Very much a cultural theorist for our times, Clifford's emphasis is on conceptual repertory that can be used in ways dialogic, contingent, and tactical...As Routes leaves us to think through the questions posed in its pages, Clifford will already be opening up new paths, formulating new terminologies, asking new questions...Ultimately, however, the path Clifford clears for himself is amply justified: his scholarship is always careful, his questions honest and probing, his use of the first person discreet. One could not ask for a better informed, more intelligent or probing advance guard. Routes is a beautifully produced book with plentiful illustrations [and] an intelligent index.
Times Literary Supplement - Mark Abley
It is a measure of Clifford's nonchalant erudition that Routes gives rise to so many diverse ideas.
Library Journal
In this series of essays, Clifford (The Predicament of Culture, Harvard Univ., 1988) explores culture further, viewing it in motion and where anthropology stands in relation to it. The author focuses on a "concrete mediation" of the cultural figure "native" and the intercultural "traveler." He discusses anthropological work, especially ethnography, tracing its development using famous anthropologists, including Bronislaw Malinowski and Franz Boas, as milestones. Clifford asserts that "intensive participant-observation is probably anthropology's most enduring contribution to humanistic study," but he finds it "deeply problematic" and "urges its reform and dissemination." Viewing museums as "continuations of indigenous traditions of storytelling, collection, and display," he probes current approaches to the interpretation and display of non-Western arts and cultures. Recommended for academic and anthropology collections.Mary J. Nickum, Bozeman, Mont.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674779617
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.41 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

James Clifford is Professor Emeritus in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
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Table of Contents

Prologue: In Medias Res

TRAVELS

Traveling Cultures

A Ghost among Melanesians

Spatial Practices: Fieldwork, Travel, and the Disciplining of Anthropology

CONTACTS

Four Northwest Coast Museums: Travel Reflections

Paradise

Museums as Contact Zones

Palenque Log

FUTURES

Year of the Ram: Honolulu, February 2, 1991

Diasporas

Immigrant

Fort Ross Meditation

Notes

References

Sources

Acknowledgments

Index

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