- Holidays in the Danger Zone: Entanglements of War and Tourism by Debbie Lisle
What does war have to do with tourism? Holidays in the Danger Zone sets out to offer a way not only to juxtapose these two phenomena, but also to unsettle their seemingly mutual exclusiveness. Lisle makes a convincing argument for the serious theoretical consideration of “soft” cultural practices and institutions of tourism alongside the more traditional subjects of international relations, namely war and conflict. Needless to say, these seemingly opposed areas of study are gendered in formation and practice, and Lisle’s work is thus a simultaneous attempt at bridging and critiquing these fields of studies, their sets of theoretical frameworks, archives and methodologies. Building on a connection theorized most notably by the work of Cynthia Enloe, Lisle posits that “war and tourism do not just coincidentally intersect but are rather co-constituted on a much more foundational ethico-political level” (10). While the links between soldiering and what the author comes to call a “tourist sensibility” are well established, the coupling of tourism as a modality of peace is an assumption that the book effectively takes to task. Primarily focused on moments “when soldiers become tourists, and when tourists enter war zones” (25), Lisle’s archive arcs from the late 1800s to the present, spotlighting key periods and sites that became exemplars of tourism-war entanglements.
What the book does successfully throughout is demonstrate how war and tourism operate to intensify and augment each other’s modes and logics of domination and governance. “Entanglement” is an apt word to describe how the relations of difference and architectures of power shared by war and tourism move with ease from one practice to another, and draw on familiar colonial patterns of gendered racialization. This is particularly clear when Lisle discusses the sexualized practices of military R&R, the burden of which falls most heavily on formerly colonized women and children. Lisle adds to the growing body of feminist scholarship in this area, most significantly through moments of close discussion and analysis of militarized prostitution in interwar Hawai‘i and Cold War Asia during and after the Vietnam War in her second and third chapters. Most particularly, she sheds light on the ways in which an emergent mode of [End Page 179] professionalization and ordering of military life, which intensifies with the rise of neoliberalism, deploys practices of tourism and leisure as primary modes of self-care and labor optimization. These practices, in turn, depend on the continual exoticization and material labor of tourism’s feminized workforce. On occasion, Lisle’s sharp analytical focus on how gender and race slide back and forth from militaristic to touristic registers is not as apparent—for example, when she glosses well-reviewed practices outside of militarized prostitution such as the development of museological “thanatourism” sites such as Hiroshima and Auschwitz, Palestine, or sites defined by conflict, such as Northern Ireland, South Africa, and Cyprus. In reviewing these examples, Lisle elaborates instead on the ethics and politics of pedagogy in representing moments of death and war through a touristic approach. Lisle’s critical focus on race and gender, however, remerges more clearly when she focuses on particular moments, such as Fidel Castro’s commandeering of the Havana Hilton in 1958, or the book’s detailed introductory chapter on the entanglement between the British tourism pioneer Thomas Cook & Son and the Gordon Relief Campaign of 1884 in Egypt. The latter, in particular, zooms in on how the “touristic framing of military life” (52) worked in collaboration with British military colonial maneuvers along the Nile, lending insight into the intimate slippages of military life and nascent tourism practices.
The most satisfying moments of Holidays in the Danger Zone occur when Lisle lingers over geopolitical events and archives that are less well known. Her discussion of the Havana Hilton’s transformation into a militarized revolutionary headquarters draws on American photographer Lester Cole’s black and white images of Cuban troops in the hotel, using...