From Keenan’s article Back to the Front: Tourisms of War, “The touristic desire for presence, the desire to coincide with nothing less than history itself, at least spatially if not temporally, finds here its ultimate test and seal of authenticity, the possibility of death…”
The US army, with its “join the army, see the world” recruiting tactics, seems to be tapping into this concept of the touristic international warrior. The soldiers and journalists involved in battles overseas experience both the exhilaration of death and the fascination with a foreign locale. “…what happens when the reality of the war that might be visited is itself structured like a tourist visit?” In the end of the article he mentions briefly the tourist/traveler going in “search of history, but of history as ruin and its aftermath. The risk and desire thus coincide: one seeks the inexistence of what remains, of what is no longer there but altogether lost.”
I’m interested in unpacking further how tourism to war sites relates to the modern similarities between tourist and soldier, and what identifications tourists might make between themselves and those actually historically involved in the events. Or, what it might mean for a soldier to return to a warfront once the fighting has ceased.
What happens to these modern wars when they become part of the media archive, and how are they changed? Tourists can visit Vietnam and crawl through parts of the Ho-Chi Minh tunnel system, with wider tourist-friendly tunnels, and peruse recreated jungle booby traps. What does it mean when these guerilla tactics have been altered to create better entertainment for fat American tourists?
Will I be able to take my children, or grandchildren, to some caves in the MiddleEast where maybe we’ll be able to make our own terrorist videos with camcorders? At places like Auschwitz, which have become sorts of tourist destinations, do the facts really “speak for themselves,” or are even past wars and warsites constantly changed and mediated by the media?