Reijnders, Stijn. Places of the Imagination: Media, Tourism, Culture.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Broad, David B.
Pub Date: 03/22/2012
Publication: Name: International Social Science Review Publisher: Pi Gamma Mu Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 Pi Gamma Mu ISSN: 0278-2308
Issue: Date: Spring-Summer, 2012 Source Volume: 87 Source Issue: 1-2
Topic: NamedWork: Places of the Imagination: Media, Tourism, Culture (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Reijnders, Stijn
Accession Number: 294895901
Full Text: Reijnders, Stijn. Places of the Imagination: Media, Tourism, Culture. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011. xii + 159 pages. Cloth, $99.95.

This book is a remarkable testimony to the popular culturist slogan, "popular culture IS culture." Through careful on-ground empirical observation, it relates how a variety of popular culture vehicles from the United Kingdom and Europe have generated tourism and tourist culture fandom. The author quickly points out, however, that the bias against "low culture" persists, including in the tourism industry that demonstrably benefits from it. The thought of the cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard, whose conception of the post-modern obfuscation of reality has had great traffic in intellectual circles, forms a starting point of the current author's analysis. So, too, does the concept and term lieux de memoire (places of memory), coined by the historian Pierre Nova, which is about how our obsession with the past has created places of memorialization, such as the beaches at Normandy. Reijnders argues that the phenomenon restores a sense of reality and makes current the experience of fiction. The theoretical concept that is the author's vehicle for this restoration and updating is his term lieux d'imagination (places in the imagination).

The author provides extensive ethnographic studies of three popular culture genres--television detectives, the almost super-human British agent James Bond, and Count Dracula. As representative of television detectives, Reijnders chose Inspector Morse of Oxford, England, Wallander of Ystad, Sweden, and Baantjer of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His observations lead him to an analysis of the post-modern and globalized world that popular culture fans inhabit in which "even the wildest fantasies spring from something recognizable" (15). So, the consumers of popular culture seek the recognizable in some reality, namely, the tourism opportunities created in response to the fantasies they read and watch. What is described in post-modern theoretical contexts as hyper-reality is regrounded and replaced by the tourist visiting real places where they can walk into settings they otherwise could only imagine if read, or view from outside if seen on television or in film.

Building on the classic work of Dean McCannell, The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class (1999), Reijnders modifies McCannell's model of how tourism creates cultural memories for the case of media tourism. In media tourism, the fan brings an elaborate understanding of the meaning of the fictitious characters and stories, and seeks only the grounding and affirmation of the place. The tourist can tell the tour guide the meanings of the places visited. An outstanding example of how life imitates art in the landscape of media tourism is the Dracula Castle Hotel, built in the Carpathians a hundred years after the publication of the Brain Stoker novel.

The author shares fully the details of the methods he employs to encode meanings of media tourism. He prepared by watching many hours of videos of detective shows, Bond films, and "stalked" Dracula in his many incarnations. The great strength of the ethnographic method is its emphasis on fieldwork, and it is in the reports of field observations that the details of how media tourism adds layers onto the cultures studied that this work makes its most vivid contribution. Walking in step with the media pilgrims, Reijnders was able to catch glimpses of how this dialectic between the fictitious and real enables fans to stay culturally connected. A Bond fan told the author, "She always thinks I'm crazy.... When we visit Bond locations, there's also something ... uh ... cul-tu-ral' or something like that to see. I mean, then we can visit James Bond locations one day and then we can go shopping for the next four days" (p. 72).

This volume contains an extensive appendix which includes transcripts of interviews with Wallander, Bond, and Dracula fan-tourists. There are photographs illustrating the popular culture figures that inspire media tourism, and variety of images of the tourists themselves. This book serves well to bridge the gap that often opens between theoretical treatises on culture and abstracted empirical researches. The author has produced an engaging ethnographic presentation that should inspire additional walks in places of the imagination.

David B. Broad, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology

North Georgia College & State University

Dahlonega, Georgia
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.