Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

VegNews: Making The “Exotic” Safe For Privileged Western Vegans February 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 12:55 pm
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VegNews is offering a “Great Adventure” to “exotic India.” Let’s take a look at the itinerary.

You’ll start off in Delhi, which they describe as “[r]uled by Hindus, Muslims and eventually the British” — & oh yeah, now India is actually an independent country, but the badly-written sentence doesn’t mention what happened after the British. Who cares, right?

Also scheduled is a visit to Jaipur, which “has intrigued and seduced travelers, wanderers, caravans and traders throughout history.” Yes, OOOOH EXOTIC. There you’ll “have dinner with a local family” for that oh-so-authentic touch of “traditional warm Rajasthani hospitality”. (I am reminded of how Thailand’s tourist industry bills it as the “Land of Smiles,” & how the Philippines is often referred to as full of friendly, helpful people. Shall we examine what might incentivize such behavior? Shall we look at what might motivate the West to view certain nations in these terms?)

You’ll also do yoga, by the way — I suppose you might be familiar with it since it’s such the rage in the West among health-conscious types like vegans. But I bet it’ll be even more enlightening when you do it in India!

Journeying to a “rustic yet charming” village, you’ll also enjoy traditional folk dancing & even stay with a Raja & his family in their palace! Because they’re the “long time friends” of the tour operators — I am sure the lure of commerce has nothing to do with why they might be hosting you!

In case you were possibly feeling a bit conflicted about your role as a rich Western tourist, never fear; after enjoying the Raja’s hospitality you’ll then head “to a local village school to donate, on behalf of the group, much needed school supplies and books and where [you’ll] be welcomed as honored guests of the students and teachers who have a special surprise waiting.” Phew! Nothing like a bit of band-aid charity to soothe the tourist soul (but make them earn it! Sure hope that surprise is a good one!). Then your conscience will be clear before that night’s attendance at an “auspicious Hindu ceremony.”

To continue with the extra-special-authentic nature of the trip, you’ll also visit a Bishnoi village. Bishnois are vegetarians & “many of their villages, like the one [you’ll] be visiting today – look quite similar to the way they have looked for hundreds of years.” Yay! Western tourists love to see earthy primitive brown people living like they have for hundreds of years! It’s so quaint! You’ll get to visit a village girls’ school & then enjoy a farewell party that the Raja’s family will throw in your honor — purely out of his affection for you, no doubt.

Next stop Udaipur, where you’ll traipse through “one of the five holiest sites in the Jain religion.” Don’t worry, I’m sure the temple is completely as it was before hordes of tourists started coming through! It will all still be totally authentic!

After some time at an animal sanctuary (that part does sound good), you’ll be off for a cooking class — so even after you return home, you can still have a bit of the Other with you whenever you want to cook an exotic dinner! Then yet more yoga & authentic folk music & dance as your trip winds down.

What’s that? Your luggage has exceeded the weight restriction for the airline? Well, yeah. Your Western cultural & financial privilege makes for a pretty heavy load.

(… & if anyone is going to comment suggesting that the point of this post is that no one should travel anywhere, then you’ve vastly missed the actual point of this post, so don’t bother.)

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Exotification & the Vegan Traveler September 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:20 pm
Tags: , ,

I’ll say it up front: I love to travel. I love to see new places; I love trains, planes, buses & big huge backpacks (so much better than cruddy suitcases!). But I’m conflicted about it. I know that when I travel I am also carrying the baggage — & privilege — of being an American, with a certain amount of financial privilege, & the privilege of speaking a language that is considered, for better or for worse, the closest thing to a global tongue right now. What does it mean for me to travel to other parts of the world? I try to be conscious of issues of exotification, but sometimes I wonder if leisure travel, especially to a country or culture not “your own” (which I realize is a complicated issue for many people, self included), inherently makes the places & people you’re visiting subject to exotification.

We’ve talked about how frustrating this stuff is recently. I thought I’d examine some specific examples of the ways in which vegan travel is discussed, in light of that, & throw it open for discussion. (more…)