Travel and the Ethics of Research in the Global South

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Touring. Seeing. Knowing. Travel often evokes strong reactions and engagements. But what of the ethics and politics of this experience? Through critical, personal reflections, the essays in Detours grapple with the legacies of cultural imperialism that shape travel, research, and writing.

Influenced by the works of anthropologists Ruth Behar and Renato Rosaldo, the scholars and journalists in this volume consider how first encounters—those initial, awkward attempts to learn about a culture and a people—evolved into enduring and critical engagements. Contemplating the ethics and racial politics of traveling and doing research abroad, they call attention to the power and privilege that permit researchers to enter people’s lives, ask intimate questions, and publish those disclosures. Focusing on Latin America and the Caribbean, they ask, Why this place? What keeps us coming back? And what role do we play in producing narratives of inequality, uneven development, and global spectacle?

The book examines the “politics of return”—the experiences made possible by revisiting a field site over extended periods of time—of scholars and journalists who have spent decades working in and writing about Latin America and the Caribbean. Contributors aren’t telling a story of enlightenment and goodwill; they focus instead on the slippages and conundrums that marked them and raised questions of their own intentions and intellectual commitments.

Speaking from the intersection of race, class, and gender, the contributors explore the hubris and nostalgia that motivate returning again and again to a particular place. Through personal stories, they examine their changing ideas of Latin America and the Caribbean and how those places have shaped the people they’ve become, as writers, as teachers, and as activists.
“A must-read for journalists and scholars who work in Latin America and the Caribbean—or anywhere in the Global South. We need this careful study of the ethics of representation now more than ever.”—Rubén Martínez, author of Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail

“Detours offers the space for that which is still scantly recognized or told to become visible and accounted for. It is an attempt to crack cultural imperialism by bringing forth the personal as political in academia and research.”—Matilde Córdoba Azcárate, University of California

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