The talk took place on the final day of Nottingham Trent’s Global Week; the day dedicated to ‘The Americas and Caribbean’. At Nottingham Trent, Global Week is an annual undertaking and has been since I was an undergraduate (at least). My primary aims for the session included: 1) emphasise the importance of travel within a Caribbean context, 2) encourage participants to think widely about the significance of postcolonial travel writing, and 3) promote discussion about the different ways in which authors from the Caribbean engage with European models of travel writing. I planned to consider three extracts throughout the session. The first was from The European Tribe (1987) by Caryl Phillips, the second from Sequins for a Ragged Hem (1988) by Amryl Johnson, and the final from Behind the Frontlines: Journey into Afro-Britain (1988) by Ferdinand Dennis. These texts invite comparison because, despite their disparate destinations, their authors all interrogate legacies of slavery and colonisation throughout their narratives, and subsequently are considered, by some, to be counter-discursive. After we had discussed the Caribbean region, its relationship with travel, and situated Caribbean travel writing within the conceptual framework of postcolonial travel writing, we discussed Phillips’ The European Tribe. I gave the participants an extract from text that described Phillips’ experiences in Amsterdam. The participants identified Phillips’ depiction of Amsterdam’s black residents, the American tourists, and his historical commentary about the propaganda during World War II as highly significant. We contemplated how Phillips undercuts the liberal nature of Amsterdam’s society with his description of black prostitutes and drug addicts, discussed how Phillips’ portrayal of the American tourists could be considered ‘snobbish’, and how his sense of superiority, as a travel writer, creates a distinction between the terms ‘traveller’ and ‘tourist’. We concluded by talking about Phillips’ reflections on the Anne Frank House, and about how the propaganda that promoted the persecution of Jewish people during World War II, as described by Phillips, was repeated within the discourse surrounding the ‘leave’ campaign before the 2016 Brexit referendum in Britain. This led to a reflection on how far (if at all) European society has progressed in terms of its treatment of those who might be considered racially, culturally, or religiously Other.
Approximately a month before my Global Week talk, Granta issued a series of short articles that responded to the troubling question ‘Is Travel Writing Dead?’ Overwhelmingly (and thankfully), the response was a resounding no, with several of the authors arguing for travel writing’s importance within social and political contexts in the contemporary era. This sentiment, I feel, was reflected by the participants’ brilliant and insightful comments about an extract from The European Tribe – a travel narrative published thirty years ago. Their engaged discussion, and particularly their points about World War II and Brexit, demonstrated travel writing’s enduring relevance in a society that is preoccupied with borders and belonging. This idea was augmented by the travel writing exhibition in Clifton Library, erected for Global Week and curated by Dr Rebecca Butler. This exhibition showcased the original research and creative practice undertaken by postgraduate and staff associates of the Centre for Travel Writing Studies at Nottingham Trent, and further demonstrates a growing interest in travel writing.
Dennis, Ferdinand, Behind the Frontlines: Journey into Afro-Britain (London: Victor
Hamid, Mohsin, ‘Is Travel Writing Dead?’, Granta, 138 (2017) < https://granta.com/is-travel-writing-dead-hamid/ > [accessed 27th February 2017]
Johnson, Amryl, Sequins for a Ragged Hem (London: Virago Press, 1988)
Laing, Olivia, ‘Is Travel Writing Dead?’, Granta, 138 (2017) < https://granta.com/olivia-laing-travel-writing-dead/ > [accessed 27th February 2017]
Phillips, Caryl, The European Tribe (New York: Vintage, 2000)
 Caryl Phillips, The European Tribe (New York: Vintage, 2000); Amryl Johnson, Sequins for a Ragged Hem (London: Virago Press, 1988); Ferdinand Dennis, Behind the Frontlines: Journey into Afro-Britain (London: Victor Gollancz, 1988).
 The following articles from Granta’s series provide especially interesting reflections on the relevance of travel writing today: Mohsin Hamid, ‘Is Travel Writing Dead?’, Granta, 138 (2017) < https://granta.com/is-travel-writing-dead-hamid/ > [accessed 27th February 2017]; Olivia Laing ‘Is Travel Writing Dead?’, Granta, 138 (2017) < https://granta.com/olivia-laing-travel-writing-dead/ > [accessed 27th February 2017].