Posted by: | 28th Apr, 2011

Travel and Displacement

The idea of travel captures our imagination; it opens up possibilities of change, adventure, and perhaps even personal growth.  But this is travel that is planned, intended, and carried on for fun.  What happens when we are compelled to travel or find ourselves displaced within our own homeland?  Three films in this year’s international Festival of Anthropology Films take up the question of travel and displacement.

The Strangers of the Inca Trail takes us into the world of youthful trekkers – Australians, North Americans, Europeans, coming together to form a brief and tenuous community as they walk along the ancient Inca Trail.  As they go a traveling they sing, play, dance, and explore their personal relations.  This is a pause from their normal lives, which they will return to.

How very different is the story of Faith Kim (alias) a North Korean woman who travels through China, Thailand, Laos to eventually arrive in Syracuse, New York in the film Voice Unknown.  Her journey takes years, not the days of the young trekkers.  It is a life-changing journey through which she too comes face to face with the nature of her personal relations.  Yet, the enormity, decisiveness, and irrevocability of her travel is so fundamentally different as to question the reasonableness of comparing her travel with that of the young trekkers.  But perhaps what is the same in these two journeys is Faith’s attempt to enter the same place, the same social and cultural place, within which the young trekkers live; a place in which travel for pure pleasure is a reality and not simply a dream.

The story of Guests of Space involves a different type of travel.  Here we are looking more at a sense of displacement.  The indigenous Nukak Maku find themselves transformed into strangers in their own home.  It is as though they have been compelled to move, to leave their home.  This is a persistent issue for Indigenous peoples; that is, to find themselves displaced from their own homes by people (perhaps people such as Faith or the young trekkers) who are re-imagining the social landscape in ways that erase history and culture.

These films screen May 1, 2011 at the Old Barn Community Centre as part of the 5th International festival of Anthropology Films

Guests of Space screens at 11:50 am.  Voice Unknown 1:00 pm.  Discussion to follow.

The Strangers on the Inca Trail screens at 1:40.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Canada
This work by The Ethnographic Film Unit is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Canada.