In the face of the global pandemic, we’ve been asked to isolate ourselves, quarantine, or shelter in place. Amongst many changes, the pandemic has prompted us to think differently about travel: when it’s possible, what it offers, and who can or can’t participate. The very concept of travel is not simple – it can be a form of leisure, a business necessity, or a hardship. Sometimes we think about travel as a luxury and something we do for pleasure. Travel can be a way to move outside of our comfort zones; learn about different customs, beliefs, and values; and broaden our worldviews. At the same time, travel can be involuntary, something imposed on us. Forced displacement can be caused by political violence, persecution, or environmental catastrophe. These circumstances reveal travel as a manifestation of vast power inequalities and exploitation.
The Humanities provide an essential lens for examining the complex and contradictory aspects of travel and the ways it has shaped the social, economic, and cultural development of societies and individuals within and across borders. Travel has been important throughout history, from prehistoric migrations, commercial voyages, colonial expeditions, and diasporic displacements, to modern tourism, voyages of self-discovery, and even solace travel. It’s not only people that travel, but ideas, plants, and languages. Travel has led to profound discoveries that have revolutionized modern science, but it has also brought about the catastrophic spread of diseases and technologies, and contributed to pollution and environmental degradation.
This year, we will examine a range of questions around travel including:
In what ways has travel shaped societal changes from cultural practices to international trade? What are the ethics of travel and the potential consequences? Where (and how) will humans be able to travel in the future and how could this change the course of humanity?
Throughout the 2022-2023 academic year, we will consider the many facets of travel to provide a Humanistic understanding of this fundamental aspect of our experiences moving through time and space. We will open up forums for discussions, promote critical reflection, and offer fresh perspectives on travel to highlight the power of the Humanities to make sense of our complex world and motivate new approaches for a more just future.
THI’s theme is part of our Expanding Humanities Impact and Publics project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.