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Cultura International Journal of Philosophy of Culture and Axiology

Volume 9, Issue 2, 2012

Semiotics of World Cultures

Massimo Leone
Pages 237-258

The Semiotics of Waste World Cultures
On Traveling, Toilets, and Belonging

Tourism industry is increasingly stripping traveling of one of its most fundamental anthropological and existential values: its being a laboratory in which travelers can temporarily experience the disruption of their regime of sedentary belonging, protected by a plan of return. According to this perspective, non-touristy traveling is one of the best ways to test the limits of one’s tolerance to cultural diversity and acknowledge, as a consequence, the identity of one’s cultural and existential ‘home.’ Yet, modern and contemporary travelogues mostly extol the traveler’s heroic capacity to overcome the limits of tolerance. Claiming that such emphasis stems from the colonial desire to domesticate and assimilate the world and its diversity, the article proposes to subvert this logic and to replace panoramic travelogues, dominated by the will power of subjects, with prosopopoeic travelogues, that tell the stories of how the things of the world, relics of centuries of civilization, reject travelers and their desire of domestication and conquest. As an example of this subversion, the article proposes a semiotic exploration of toilets, their variety, and their ‘cultural resistance.’

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