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“Ceci n’est pas un voyage”

“Ceci n’est pas un voyage”

(p.129) Chapter Six “Ceci n’est pas un voyage”
Far Afield
Vincent Debaene
University of Chicago Press

This chapter situates ethnographic fieldwork in relation to changing conceptions of travel and travel literature in France. In the early twentieth century, grand voyages from the Romantic period fell out of favor and exoticist literature gained in popularity thanks to developments in the press and mass media. Chapter 6 examines how the idea of a “true” voyage became the site of an intense symbolic competition between travelers and how French anthropologists dealt with this competition. Highlighting the communicability of scientific discourse and its pedagogical relationship to a broad public, they sought to constitute their discipline against tourism and the exoticism of travel writing as a popular genre. Drawing on examples from Michel Leiris’s disillusionment with the model of cultural initiation in L’Afrique fantôme and from Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques, the chapter ultimately shows how both authors gradually realized that the commonly held idea of travel could not provide a framework for ethnography, and that anthropological fieldwork in fact implied renouncing the idea of the voyage.

Keywords:   Travel writing, Exoticism, Michel Leiris, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, L’Afrique fantôme, Tourism, Initiation

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