Inverting the Tourist Gaze


  • Joanna Kujawa


Nearly every philosopher, at some point, reflects upon the concept of beauty. In the European tradition, the first serious and systematic formulations of a theory of beauty was tackled by Plato and Plotinus in the fourth century BCE and second century CE, respectively. In the Eastern tradition, it was the towering figure of the tenth-century Indian philosopher Abhinavagupta who provided an extensive theory of beauty and aesthetics. In more recent times, plenty of thought has been given to cultural discourses on the perception of beauty, where the most notable among them include Edward Said’s work Orientalism, and John Urry’s The Tourist Gaze. In The Tourist Gaze, Urry fleetingly mentions the “minimal characteristics” of travel, such as “the intense pleasures” of fantasy and dreaming, but leaves them largely untouched. Even in his afterthoughts on the “tourist gaze,” Urry comments on the importance of visual experience and how its interpretation depends mostly on the viewer’s perspective, but stresses that this is contingent on the “various social practices” of organised tourism, rather than the internal experiences of individuals. Indeed, very little has been written on the interiority of travel, and even less on beauty as a numinous, inner experience enriched by the act of travelling.