"Empty Meeting Grounds" continues Dean MacCannell's post-anthropological search for the cultural subject that is about to emerge from the encounter of the ex-primitive and the postmodern. Here he follows the tourists in their attempts to penetrate the deep periphery (in an essay entitled "Cannibalism Today") and then back home again (in "The Desire to Be Postmodern").
"Empty Meeting Grounds" examines the new cultural forms and community arrangements that accompany the development of global tourism. MacCannell examines the implications of the movement of tourists on Highland Thai trekking tours of primitive villages, and the New Guinea "cannibal tours," and sets this new form of "tourism" against the corresponding reverse movement of formerly primitive and peasant peoples from the remote periphery to western centers of wealth and power.
In "Empty Meeting Grounds," MacCannell does not treat these two opposing movements as unrelated. Rather, he sees the linkage between the "ex-primitive" and the postmodern as ineluctable at the level of emerging global culture. The thesis of this book is that human kind has already arrived at, perhaps even gone beyond, the historical moment of the invention of a new kind of community, but we are not yet capable of facing the implication of our collective invention. Will it be a synthesis of the positive human dimensions of so-called "primitive" existence and the beneficial elements of modern social systems and technologies? Or will it be the most repressive alienated existence we have so far devised for ourselves?
Written in the spirit of theoretical activism, MacCannell speculates about the future while being grounded in the present. His theoretical discussions are based upon practical examples: his analyses cover the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Statue of Liberty restoration project, the management of Yosemite National Park and the sale of an entire town of Chinese farmworkers.
"MacCannell's strength lies in his ability to dissect this lingering disquiet, so often lying behind the gaudy innocence of the package holiday, without railing against the tourist experience from the vantage point of informed high culture."
-"The Times Literary Supplement
"This is a brilliant book. MacCannell unmasks the political face of terror too often occluded by scholars working within contemporary strands of cultural criticism . . . Rich, accessible and important."
-Peter McLaren, Miami University, Oxford