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Strange(r) Maps: The cosmopolitan geopolitics of Sri Lankan tourism
Ward, Shelby Elise
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Concerned with the ongoing coloniality within the form and interactions of international relations, this project examines the legacy of colonial mapping practices on contemporary geopolitics. Specifically, I investigate Sri Lankan tourist maps as subversive examples of the politics of vision implicated within the historical formation of island-space under colonial mapping practices (i.e. Portuguese, Dutch, and British), and the contemporary political implications of the island geography as the state, including exclusionary identity politics during the the civil war (1983-2009). Using a mix-analysis approach, including interviews, participatory mapping, and autoethnography, as well as feminist, postcolonial, and critical theoretical lenses, I argue that Sri Lankan tourist maps serve as examples of the historically developed and continued right to space, mobility, representation, and resources between the Global North and South in what I term "cosmopolitan geopolitics." As geopolitics can be identified as the relationship between territories and resources, cosmopolitan geopolitics is concerned with the power relations when such elements as culture, authenticity, history, and religion are marked in places, people, and experiences as valued resources within the international tourist economy, particularly in this project which connects the colonial histories of mapping, travel, and international relations. In order to address the imperial, masculine politics of vision this project is separated into two parts: the first is concerned with the ontology and colonial legacy the map (Chapters 1-3), the second with the politics of the map, including exclusionary politics of the nation state (Chapters 4-6). Chapter 1 investigates the politics of island space as represented on the tourist map, where the state serves as both a "treasure box" and "caged problem." Chapter 2 argues that the cartoon images and icons serve as a resource map for contemporary geopolitics, and Chapter 3 indicates that this map simultaneously acts an invitation to the cosmopolitan, with assumed access and hospitality. Examining the various ways that the exclusionary politics of the Sinhala-Buddhist state are implicated in the representations on the tourist map, Chapters 4-6 look at cultural tourist sites, natural or wildlife sites, and former war zones, respectively. Overall, this is an interdisciplinary examination between postcolonial studies, critical tourism studies, critical geography, and Sri Lankan studies that examines the continued politics of vision and access to space with both international and domestic political-economic implications.
General Audience Abstract
This project takes a critical examination of tourist maps, as a cultural artifact in what has been called “coloniality,” or the ongoing colonial relations in contemporary relationships between nation states. I suggest that my taking into account the colonial history and development of mapping practices, tourism, and international relations that tourist maps serve as material intersection to examine such relations. The island state of Sri Lanka is an ideal case study for this project, as not only does it intersect colonial relations between the Portuguese, Dutch, and British, but because after ending nearly 30-year ethnic-religious civil war the country is looking to expand its tourism industry. Therefore, I argue that an understanding of what I term “cosmopolitan geopolitics” helps us to account for the ways in which culture and religious experiences become resources in contemporary geopolitics within the international tourist economy. Using a mix-analysis approach of interviews, participatory mapping, autoethnography, and theoretical perspectives, I organize the project into two main parts. The first questions “what a map is,” and the second questions “who gets to map.” Overall, this interdisciplinary investigation pulls from postcolonial studies, critical tourism studies, critical geography, and Sri Lankan studies in order to question the continued narratives and representations within cultural commodification and travel.
- Doctoral Dissertations