James Clifford. Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

In his evocative challenge to postmodern ethnography, Clifford begins with the notion that human location is “constituted by displacement as much as by stasis” (2). His tools for “prying open culture are expanded concepts of writing and collage, the former seen as interactive, open-ended, and processual, the latter as a way of making space for heterogeneity, for historical and political, not simply aesthetic, juxtapositions” (3). Clifford is explicit in his association of travel and identity, and the place where identity is constructed:
In the twentieth century, cultures and identity reckon with both local and transnational powers to an unprecedented degree. Indeed, the currency of culture and identity as performative acts can be traced to their articulation of homelands, safe places where the traffic across borders can be controlled. Such acts of control, maintaining coherent insides and outsides, are always tactical. Cultural action, the making and remaking of identities, takes place in the contact zones, along the political and transgressive intercultural frontiers of nations, peoples, locales. Stasis and purity are asserted—creatively and violently—against historical forces of movement and contamination. (7)

The “hybrid identities” and “creolizations” produced by these movements are both “restrictive” and “liberating.” For Clifford, location is “an itinerary rather than a bounded site—a series of encounters and translations” (11).

Clifford is at pains to counter the common association of “travel” with “transience, superficiality, tourism, exile, and rootlessness.” Positively conceived, travel signifies exploration, research, escape, transforming encounter” (31). The hotel or field tent becomes a place of knowledge, a “specific way into complex histories of traveling cultures (and cultures of travel) in the late twentieth century.”

Hotels, however, have their share of cultural baggage, including a “nostalgic inclination” (32). Clifford therefore suggests that the motel is a more satisfying postmodern chronotope: “The motel has no real lobby, and it’s tied into a highway network—a relay or node rather than a site of encounter between coherent cultural subjects. Clifford quotes Meaghan Morris: “Motels, unlike hotels, demolish sense regimes of place, locale, and history. They memorialize only movement, speed, and perpetual circulation” (33).

Nomadology, for Clifford, is a comparative cultural studies approach to specific histories, tactics, everyday practices of dwelling and traveling: traveling-in-dwelling, dwelling-in-traveling” (36). He is suspicious of the term “nomadology,” however, since it suggests to him “a form of postmodern primitivism” (39). “Travel” is his preferred “translation” term—a word of apparently general application used for comparison in a strategic and contingent way (39).

Finally, Clifford asserts that “cultural dwelling cannot be considered except in specific historical relations with cultural traveling, and vice versa” (45).

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