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A Narrative Community

Voices of Israeli Backpackers

Chaim Noy

Publication Year: 2006

Backpacking, or Tarmila’ut, has been a time-honored rite of passage for young Israelis for decades. Shortly after completing their mandatory military service, young people set off on extensive backpacking trips to “exotic” and “authentic” destinations in so-called Third World regions in India, Nepal, and Thailand in Asia, and also Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina in Central and South America. Chaim Noy collects the words and stories of Israeli backpackers to explore the lively interplay of quotations, constructed dialogues, and social voices in the backpackers’ stories and examine the crucial role they play in creating a vibrant, voiced community. A Narrative Community illustrates how, against the peaks of Mt. Everest, avalanches, and Incan cities, the travelers’ storytelling becomes an inherently social drama of shared knowledge, values, hierarchy, and aesthetics. Based on forty-five in-depth narrative interviews, the research in this book examines how identities and a sense of belonging emerge on different social levels—the individual, the group, and the collective—through voices that evoke both the familiar and the Other. In addition, A Narrative Community makes a significant contribution to modern tourism literature by exploring the sociolinguistic dimension related to tourists’ accounts and particularly the transformation of self that occurs with the experience of travel. In particular, it addresses the interpersonal persuasion that travelers use in their stories to convince others to join in the ritual of backpacking by stressing the personal development that they have gained through their journeys. This volume is groundbreaking in its dialogical conceptualization of the interview as a site of cultural manifestation, innovation, and power relations. The methods employed, which include qualitative sampling and interviewing, clearly demonstrate ways of negotiating, manifesting, and embodying speech performances. Because of its unique interdisciplinary nature, A Narrative Community will be of interest to sociolinguists, folklore scholars, performance studies scholars, tourism scholars, and those interested in social discourses in Israel.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xii

I still consider myself a narrativist in the romantic sense: one who is truly fascinated with how people conjure up and create realms of being through storytelling; how people convey the deepest recesses of their lives through stories, by and by re-creating selves for themselves. The stories that mesmerized me at the onset of this research lay at the very core of romanticism—stories of travel and adventure...

Site I: Introduction: Persuasion

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1. Performing Backpacking Narratives

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pp. 3-26

Backpacking, or Tarmila’ut, presently constitutes a time-honored rite of passage in Israeli society. For three decades now, scores of youths, after completing their mandatory service in the army, make the “great journey” (hatiyul hagadol), backpacking extensively to explore “exotic” and “authentic” destinations. These are typically located in “third world” regions; in Asia itineraries include India, Nepal, and Thailand...

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2. Persuasion

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pp. 27-46

Quite early during the interviews, I noticed that the backpackers asked, offhandedly and repeatedly, whether I myself had participated in the great journey about which I was inquiring. These questions were subtle enough so that I neglected to consider them during the first few interviews, and my laconic replies, documented in magnetic recordings and inky field notes, did not result from any particular sensitivity...

Site II: Quotations And Voices

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3. Quotations

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pp. 49-60

While listening time and again to the backpackers’ excited accounts, I realized something that I had not and perhaps could not have realized earlier, at the actual “live” time of the conversations. Being a native Israeli as well as an ex-backpacker, I was too familiar with such instances to notice and discern the abundance and salience of the oral marks of quotations in the performances. This lay, to use the term...

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4. Performing the Chorus and the (Occasional) Emergence of Individual Voices

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pp. 61-78

Although the backpackers commonly express their aspiration to travel solo, adhering to the ethos of the lone colonial explorer, during the trip they participate in a dense collective social rite. They do so in the close companionship of fellow Israelis whom they knew before the trip or whom they met during the trip...

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5. Performing Others’ Voices: Quoting Native and Tourist

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pp. 79-102

While choral and individual voices represent that which is utterly familiar to the backpackers—their single and plural selves—we now turn to explore voices imported into the performances from a foreign exterior. The following quotations index voices that are attributed to either “native” or “local” (mekomi) or “tourist” (tayar) animators.1 Basically, both share a common attribution—namely, being outside...

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6. The Collective-Canonic Voice: Quoting the Norm (of Quoting)

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pp. 103-128

The most dominant variety of quotations noted in the course of this study has been of a type attributed to a third-person, plural male voice, an attribution that typically included explicit reference to “Israelis” or “Israeli backpackers” as their original animators. This type of quotation indexes the discursive community itself and represents both the backpackers’ own collectivized voice and the community’s authoritative...

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7. From Oral Authority to Written Canon: Quoting Travelers’ Books and Trail Stories

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pp. 129-146

Thus far, evocation of the collective voice has suggested its attribution in and through quotation solely in the realm of speech. The narrators ventriloquized the spoken words of an authoritative social entity—namely, “Israelis”—which they constructed through the very act of voicing it. Quite remarkably, however, some of the backpackers’ authoritative quotations are attributed to written sources. This suggests that the...

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8. From Speech Community to Vocal Identity: The Sound of Quotations

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pp. 147-170

The impressive evocation of quotations in the backpackers’ performances plays an additional exciting role. This role is not encompassed in the meaning or function commonly attributed to reported speech per se, that stemming from the infusion of rhetoric and content. Rather, quotations are intriguing because they are more than illustrations of social voices. Due to their highly performative and dramatic...

Site III: Conclusions

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9. Self-Transformation

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pp. 173-194

In the travel narratives they tell, backpackers re-create themselves as changed persons. The great journey, they enthusiastically admit, supplies more than mere recreation and even more than a profound experience per se: rather, it is downright transformative. Upon performing their travel experiences, the backpacking narrators establish a heightened dialogical context that facilitates powerful claims of self-change...

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pp. 195-202

This book embodies a discursive travel. Like the backpackers’ itinerary, the book commences with an inquiry into the dialogics of persuasive narration that govern pretrip storytelling occasions between accomplished and novice backpackers (see chapter 2). The aim achieved by narrative performances extends beyond the pleasure of a well-told story. Covertly—veiled by the heightened atmosphere of the interaction...

Appendix 1: Snowball Stemmata

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pp. 203-204

Appendix 2: Questions Asked

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pp. 205-206


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pp. 207-214

Works Cited

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pp. 215-230

General Index

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pp. 231-234

Author Index

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pp. 235-238

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814337585
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814331767

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 7
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Raphael Patai Series in Jewish Folklore and Anthropology

Research Areas


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