Out of Practice: Foreign Travel as the Productive Disruption of Embodied Knowledge Schemes
The Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology
This paper explores foreign travel as an affective experience, embodied practice and form of learning. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork on tourism and pilgrimage in the Himalayan region, the phenomenological notions of "home world" and "alien world" are employed to discuss how perceptions of strangeness and everyday practices are shaped by enculturation and socialisation processes. It is shown that travellers bring the habitus and doxa acquired in the home world to foreign situations, where
... ituations, where these embodied knowledge schemes and abilities for skilful coping can break down. In a home world, cultural patterns offer actors "trustworthy recipes for interpreting the social world" (Schütz, 1944, pp. 501-502) that allow everyday experience to go largely unnoticed and unquestioned. In alien worlds, however, travellers -as strangers -encounter differences and disturbances that disrupt experience and cause things normally overlooked to become "lit up". Using Husserlian and Heideggerian notions of "light breaks" and Dewey's theory of challenge, the author argues that foreign travel generates a form of embodied learning. This occurs first on the level of the pre-reflexive body that is affected and solicited by the new and unfamiliar demands of an alien world. Ultimately, through continuous adjustment of habits and practices in foreign environments, an embodied cosmopolitanism is generated via accumulated travel experience. This calls attention to the role of the lived body in travel experience, as well as the role of place and environment in shaping human practices, perceptions and modes of dwelling. All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.