• Rodanthi Tzanelli

Featured Book: Magical Realist Sociologies of Belonging and Becoming: The Explorer

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

At the bottom of the sea, freedivers find that the world bestows humans with the magic of bodily and mental freedom, binding them in small communities of play, affect and respect for nature. On land, rational human interests dissolve this magic into prescriptive formulas of belonging to a profession, a nation and an acceptable modernity. The magical exploration is morphed by such multiple interventions successively from a pilgrimage, to a cinematic and digital articulation of an anarchic project, to an exercise in national citizenship and finally, a projection of post-imperial cosmopolitan belonging.

This is the story of an embodied, relational and affective journey: the making of the explorer of worlds. At its heart stands a clash between individual and collective desires to belong, aspirations to create and the pragmatics of becoming recognised by others. The primary empirical context in which this is played is the contemporary margins of European modernity: the post-troika Greece. With the project of a freediving artist, who stages an Underwater Gallery outside the iconic island of Amorgos, as a sociological spyglass, it examines the networks of mobility that both individuals and nations have to enter to achieve international recognition, often at the expense of personal freedom and alternative pathways to modernity.

Inspired by fusions of cultural pragmatics, phenomenology, phanerology, the morphogenetic approach, feminist posthumanism and especially postcolonial theories of magical realism, this study examines interconnected variations of identity and subjectivity in contexts of contemporary mobility (digital and embodied travel/tourism). As a study of cultural emergism, the book will be of interest to students and scholars in critical theory, cultural, postcolonial and decolonial studies, and tourism/pilgrimage theory.

Endorsements on the Book

"The book is an imaginative contribution to the sociology of aesthetics and offers interesting perspectives on mobility and belonging."

Gerard Delanty, Professor of Sociology, Social and Political Thought, Sussex European Institute & School of Law, Politics and Sociology.

"Rodanthi’s multi-layered monograph offers intricate social-scientific analyses of the key human processes of becoming and belonging. Through four rhizomatic ‘readings’ that draw on various instantiations of the magical-realist type of ‘the explorer’, the author shares her critical insights about the current condition of Greece in particular and post-colonialisation and neo-liberalisation in general. That this thought-provoking text is hard to summarize or categorize is perhaps all the more reason to read it."

Noel B. Salazar, Sociocultural Anthropologist, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

"This remarkable and incredibly wide-ranging book is on one level a study of a tourist event, the ‘one breath’ Underwater Gallery off the Greek island Amorgos, but it is also about so much more. Through uncovering the many modalities and layers of the tourist site, Tzanelli encompasses, one might say, a breathtakingly original and challenging interrogation of cultural theory, modernist aesthetics, tourist studies, sociology, visual theory, feminism, and postcolonial theory. Through a magical realist, contrasted with rationalist, lens her book is also informed by an emancipatory imperative to elucidate alternative visions of modernity through exploration of existential, experiential and corporeal travel. It is a landmark work of empirical sociological study and critical social theory."

Larry Ray, Professor of Sociology, University of Kent.

"Social thinking is a creative endeavor. Unfortunately, there is often quite far between real manifestations of critical-creative social thinking. Rodanthi Tzanelli’s book on Magical Realist Sociologies of Belonging and Becoming comes to a well-awaited rescue for those stranded on the shores of routinized thinking. Rarely do we find such creativity in the field as in this book. The exploration reaches deep into the waters of interdisciplinary reflection, and travels across the vast territories of art, philosophy, and social theory making an important lighthouse for contemporary social thinking. We needed a magical realist map of this world, and Dr. Tzanelli just provided us with one."

Ole B. Jensen, Professor of Urban Theory, Department of Architecture, Design & Media Technology, Aalborg University.

"This is the first book to boldly and magically transform traditional notions of worldmaking, being and becoming, critically challenging industrial capitalism and rationalized modernity to create radical conceptualizations of ethnic, gendered and non-human difference. Guided by Greek magic realism and postcolonial modes of ‘realist magic’, Dr. Tzanelli undertakes a philosophical and cultural journey into the multidimensional phenomenon of popular culture, transcending disciplinary silos, decentering the sociological imagination from Western-centered perspectives, and interleaving magically with tourism to construct new ontological and epistemological understandings and analyses of cultural pragmatics. Interview quotes and a personalized narrative weave artistry into phenomenal and material exploration of digital and cinematic technologies, "govermobility", emotion, embodiment and performativities of belonging."

Tazim Jamal, Professor, Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences, University of Texas.

"In this work of iconoclastic erudition, which drives a critical wedge into the authority of rationalist social-science epistemologies, Rodanthi Tzanelli probes the persistence of hierarchies of art, scholarship, and cultural identity in the neoliberal age. By performing this exercise in a particular country, Greece, and by sympathetically connecting that country’s cultural specificities to its ongoing geopolitical vicissitudes, she reveals the dynamics and constraints of local artistic production as symptomatic of global realities – and especially of the capacity of powerful interests to disenchant the world by denying or fixing the significance of embodied experience."

Michael Herzfeld, Ernest E. Monrad Research Professor of the Social Sciences, Harvard University.

"Tzanelli’s unique book takes us on a journey of embodied artistic subjectivity as it navigates modernity’s multiplicity, and especially the price that must be paid for protecting what one loves in the (post)colonial, hypermobile Capitalocene. Those with a deep knowledge of sociological theory will particularly appreciate Tzanelli’s layered and complex treatment of the issues she considers, while more general tourism studies readers will enjoy tracing the book’s central character and his freediving community’s artistic engagement through tourism’s governmental-industrial worldmaking machine."

Kellee Caton, Professor of Tourism, Thompson Rivers University.


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