Anita Perkins, Department of Languages and Cultures PhD graduate, has recently published a book based on her PhD, answering the question ‘How does the experience of travel transform culture over time?’
The book brings together two main areas of scholarship; the cultural analysis of German literature and film, and the emerging field of mobilities studies which places movement and travel at the centre of human experience.
Anita says the sculpture, ‘the Stone of Good Fortune’ from Goethe’s garden house in Weimar, Germany, which is on the cover of her book, can be used as a way to understand how mobility scholars look at the world.
“The stone sculpture relates to the constant negotiation between two seemingly opposed ways of being: dwelling and mobility. The cube represents dwelling; it symbolises firmness and groundedness. The sphere represents mobility; the dynamic and unanticipated movement or change.
“The kinds of questions mobility scholars are interested in are; when do people travel and what social and political factors enable, force or prevent this? And what happens to those who stay behind.”
Anita’s research involved carrying out a comparative analysis of travel texts from two significant periods of global social change: 1770 – 1830 (historical) and 1985-2010 (contemporary).
One of the focus points of Anita’s research is to argue that travel writers and filmmakers make a significant contribution toward critical reflection. They look at what an increasingly mobilised world means for us, how different people respond, and how we might think critically about what is happening.
“For example, the Greek film maker Theo Angelopoulos views home as a dynamic, affective quality or concept rather than concrete and tied to a particular place; ‘home is not necessarily a real spot that is here or there’. He believes in Greece as a concept, not just in terms of geographical borders, saying, ‘This Greece which is in my mind is home, not this office here in Athens where I am sitting.’”
“Homecoming for Angelopoulos is therefore about being at peace with oneself, rather than arriving at or being in a specific location.”
One key outcome of Anita’s book is to recognise the importance of travel first and foremost at the conceptual level as an idea, image, ideal or desire. Her research makes an important contribution to the field of mobilities studies, an area of academia that is increasingly important in the current context.
“It allows us to ethically consider whether people, ideas and things moving more and further is a good or bad thing.”
Travel Texts and Moving Cultures was recently launched at an event hosted by the Department of Languages and Cultures.