Uneven and Linked Mobilities
On January 12, 2016, a bomb exploded near two of Turkey’s most famous historical tourist attractions, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. A suicide bomber approached a group of tourists and detonated a bomb, killing nine Germans and one Peruvian, and leaving more than a dozen other foreigners wounded. A year prior, in the same square, another suicide bomber targeted a police station, killing a local police officer. Mere months after the January 2016 attack, another series of bombings further expanded the map of civilian targets from Ankara (bus stop) and Istanbul (tourist area) to Brussels (airport), the Ivory Coast (tourist resort), and Lahore (amusement park). In each instance, the targeting of tourists, tourist spaces, or transportation hubs signaled the increasingly commonplace collision of violence and mobility in our contemporary moment. Targeting civilians—particularly tourists—effectively garners media attention and has become a reliable way for terrorists to spotlight particular grievances or conflicts.
While these violent acts did not shift world opinion on the civil war in Syria, the refugee crisis that has spread across the Middle East and Europe, or the particular geopolitical role each site plays vis-à-vis a more complex and far-reaching crisis of extremism and militarism, they gesture toward how the politics of security are entangled with the realities of uneven mobility and displacement.
However, perhaps we should not be surprised that this violence against tourists has escalated alongside the greatest refugee crisis in the Middle East and Western Europe since, arguably, the end of World War II. These two mobile populations stand in stark contrast: one generally privileged, Western, and raced as white, even if this assumption hides a far more diverse population, the other generally underprivileged, fleeing bombs and police terror, and raced as Muslim, even though this commonality hides a vast range of political upheavals from Syria to Pakistan. To be quite clear, juxtaposing these [End Page 507] two groups is in no way about casting blame on the refugees themselves for the uptick of attacks against tourists or about creating a competitive binary of dueling tragedies. Rather, it is to recognize the far-reaching consequences and networks of violence that police and define “security” and “mobility.”1 While the structures of militarism and war may seem blindingly obvious in the case of the refugee crisis, in this special issue, we hope to illuminate how military histories and structures have also framed tourist economies and cultures to a far greater extent than may seem initially apparent or obvious.
In this special issue, we investigate the multiple ways in which tourism and militarism inform each other in the past and in our own contemporary moment. At first glance, militarism and tourism may seem isolated, unrelated, and potentially oppositional. Admittedly, most militaries are state-run, use violence, dictate soldiers’ movements, and harness discourses of defense, while proponents of tourism often embrace the power of individual growth, independent mobility, private economies, and discourses of freedom and leisure. Yet it is the assumed dissonance between tourism and militarism that makes their intersections so analytically provocative and compelling. By examining these seemingly incompatible projects in tandem, we can learn how they collide in high-profile controversies, ongoing occupations, historic preservation, intimate relationships, and the fabric of everyday life.
The attacks in Turkey and elsewhere, just in this year alone, are far from unique. Prior to and since 9/11, dozens, if not hundreds, of incidents involving threats to and violations of the safety of travelers have occurred. Luxor, Egypt (1997), Palawan, Philippines (2001), Bali, Indonesia (2002), Madrid, Spain (2004), London, England (2005), Bamako, Mali (2015), Sousse, Tunisia (2015), Jakarta, Indonesia (2016) make up just a partial list of the many ways that the “soft targets” of tourism are brought into an active and expanded conflict zone. What these attacks on tourists do—particularly those that claim Western victims—is unsettle the fiction of safety for Western citizens at home and abroad, a fiction on which tourism and other mobilities are founded. Too often, the body count that tallies the dead according to nationality becomes a measure of just how tragic a particular...