Far OutCountercultural Seekers and the Tourist Encounter in Nepal

Far OutCountercultural Seekers and the Tourist Encounter in Nepal

Mark Liechty

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780226428802

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Far Out examines how generations of counterculturally inclined Westerners have imagined Nepal as a land untainted by modernity and its capital, Kathmandu, a veritable synonym of Oriental Mystique. The book examines how the idea of Nepal changes through time in ways that reflect shifting forms of countercultural longing in the West, and how Nepalis have engaged the changing images of Nepal that tourists bring with them. Through three sections that span the post WW II decades of roughly 1950 to 1980 the book examines an early tourism phase in which jet-setting postwar elites came to Nepal in search of Raj-era Oriental fantasies; Nepal’s emergence as an exotic outpost of hippie counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s; and the country’s rebranding as an adventure destination in which tourists pay for packaged renewal, whether on a trekking trail or in a meditation course. Focusing on tourism as encounter, the book asks what tourism meant to both the foreigners who came to Nepal and the Nepalis who had to make sense of some of the most bizarre characters and (counter) cultural trends that the twentieth century produced. Even if the anti-modernist fantasy Nepals came and left with the tourists who imagined them, Nepalis who encountered those fantasies became adept at selling foreigners their own dreams thereby transforming tourism into a domestic industry. Far Out documents the convergence between the deep-seated Western longing for an imagined spirituality located in the remote, high Himalayas, and Nepali desires to tap into global modernity.