Things That Move

Peter Lewis & Derek Horton

Think 'Twin Peaks':

"Take a trip to the woods. Buy a log. Relax. How about that cup of 'ol' Joe'?"

Within the practices and 'performance' of contemporary tourism, material objects are given meaning and status and are endowed with symbolism and power by the use (and misuse) of the material world through travel. In both 'virtual' and 'actual' movement through this regulated world, engagement with material 'things' and physical 'stuff' is unavoidable.

The tangible, the world of places and things, is constituted by the transcendent objects of the cogito, coded in remembrance as edifices, monuments, the sites of 'sights', souvenirs, snapshots, mementos. In order to regulate enjoyment, tourism replaces any inconsistencies with its own logic of security and certainty, sealing off the abject - the 'real' - and deterring the unplanned for, the unprecedented chance encounter, or anything that might constitute a break in normative reality.

This constant mediation of the unforeseeable by the Big Other - Tourism, with a big 'T' - is set to operate at a speed that determines and authorises a perpetual over-proximity and rigid classification.

"This modern notion of the 'open' universe is based on a hypothesis that every positive entity (noise, matter) occupies some (empty) space: it hinges on the difference between space qua void and positive entities (objects), 'filling it out'."

Slavoj Zizek, 'The Metastasis of Enjoyment'.

The relationship we develop and exchange with the world of places and things is thereby re-evaluated to represent and define a generic and standardised tourist 'experience' of freedom: the reconstitution of a space through its 'filling out' by objects, 'things'.

"The world blocks revolt with the illusion of a merely commercial freedom; it disarms logic, for it is governed by the 'illogical' business of communication [...] for it works to insure itself from chance, to affirm the 'necessary calculation of security [...] for ours is a 'specialised and fragmented world', a bundling together of specific communities and knowledges. Trapped within the exclusive medium of a global financial market, communitarian, religious, and nationalist passions have expanded to fill the void left by the collapse of any viable political project."

Peter Hallward, 'Badiou, A Subject to Truth'.

This global market of course includes tourism, which in turn involves the commodification of such passions, and is performed in a state of dulled awareness, thereby allowing the 'reified' object to slip past. But our journeys, 'holidays', through the world of things may yet yield exceptions to the security of material objects, unleashing beyond our conscious desire a plethora of troublesome, immaterial emotions bursting through their skin: enjoyment, attachment, belonging, nostalgia, angst, envy, disappointment, exclusion, loathing, fear and love; prompting a re-evaluation, a challenge to the generic and standardised tourist 'experiences' of leisure or exploration.

This sixth edition of /seconds marks a collaboration with the Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change, published to coincide with their conference, 'Things That Move: The Material World of Tourism and Travel', at Leeds Metropolitan University in July 2007. /seconds acknowledges the contribution and support of Professor Mike Robinson and his colleagues at the Centre to this edition. More information about the Centre can be found at