Questions of Travel

Postmodern Discourses of Displacement

Questions of Travel

Post-Contemporary Interventions

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Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: Published: August 1996

Author: Caren Kaplan

Geography, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory

Contemporary theory is replete with metaphors of travel—displacement, diaspora, borders, exile, migration, nomadism, homelessness, and tourism to name a few. In Questions of Travel, Caren Kaplan explores the various metaphoric uses of travel and displacement in literary and feminist theory, traces the political implications of this “traveling theory,” and shows how various discourses of displacement link, rather than separate, modernism and postmodernism.
Addressing a wide range of writers, including Paul Fussell, Edward Said, James Clifford, Gilles Deleuze, Jean Baudrillard, Gayatri Spivak, Edward Soja, Doreen Massey, Chandra Mohanty, and Adrienne Rich, Kaplan demonstrates that symbols and metaphors of travel are used in ways that obscure key differences of power between nationalities, classes, races, and genders. Neither rejecting nor dismissing the powerful testimony of individual experiences of modern exile or displacement, Kaplan asks how mystified metaphors of travel might be avoided. With a focus on theory’s colonial discourses, she reveals how these metaphors continue to operate in the seemingly liberatory critical zones of poststructuralism and feminist theory. The book concludes with a critique of the politics of location as a form of essentialist identity politics and calls for new feminist geographies of place and displacement.


“Kaplan’s book presents an excellent exploration of how metaphors and specific terms bring with them particular ideological formations. Her account of differences and similarities across the field of cultural theory in the Euro-American academy offers the reader a useful mapping of discursive relations. Her final two chapters, which focus less on particular texts or theorists and more on situating significant theorists and theories within the field of postcolonial and feminist cultural production, provide especially admirable and nuanced conceptual histories.” — , New Formations

“The potential equivalences and disjunctions between postcolonial and postmodern theory are elegantly foregrounded in Caren Kaplan’s Questions of Travel. . . . Kaplan’s useful readings bring feminist analysis to bear on postmodern discussions of temporality and geography, even as she recognizes that a politics of location is itself dependent on discourses of displacement.” — Kamala Visweswaran , Signs

“With a virtuoso show of ideological savvy . . . Kaplan seeks to analyze how our very sense of geography itself is being remade within the interstices of a global economic, cultural, and media order.” — A. Robert Lee , Immigrants & Minorities

Questions of Travel is a multilayered inquiry into the ideological function of metaphors in discourses of displacement. Kaplan richly historicizes these metaphors in order to explicate the situated meanings that inhere in the myriad kinds of displacement that characterizes contemporary writing and lives. Her meditations on the rhetorics of displacement—including nomadism, exile, migrancy, and other practices of movement across space—take the reader on an exciting excursion into the fraught politics of travel discourse.” — Donna Haraway, University of California, Santa Cruz


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Caren Kaplan is Associate Professor in the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. She is coeditor (with Inderpal Grewal) of Scattered Hegemonies: Postmodernity and Transnational Feminist Practices and Between Woman and Nation (with Norma Alarcón and Minoo Moallem).

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

Questions of Travel: An Introduction 1

1. "This Question of Moving": Modernist Exile / Postmodern Tourism 27

2. Becoming Nomad: Poststructuralist Deterritorializations 65

3. Traveling Theorists: Cosmopolitan Diasporas 101

4. Postmodern Geographies: Feminist Politics of Location 143

Notes 189

Bibliography 211

Index 233
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1821-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1828-6
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