Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Travelsty: Travel Isn't The Best Form Of Education

- Erica Ales, Sociological Images

It turns out world travel doesn’t make one more worldly, and by “worldly” I mean sensitive to other peoples’ oppression.

That's depressing. But not surprising.

Erica Ales's study shows that time spent studying abroad did not increase a young person’s awareness of unequal power relations between different cultures and the larger political realities enabling them, particularly the neo-colonial power arrangements that continue to haunt societies previously colonized by western powers.

In particular, study abroad students were just as blind as non-study abroad students to the moral implications of “slumming” or “poverty tourism”; in this instance, the fashion industry’s exploitation of the people and everyday scenes of poorer nations for use as props in high-fashion photo shoots.

These young globtrotters failed to deviate from the Eurocentric script that objectifies and exotifies individuals from less powerful non-western nations, yet they viewed themselves as more “culturally competent" and aware.

Looks like the privilege to travel begets a privileged ignorance.

(Even a monkey knows inequality when it sees it.)

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