Far Out: Countercultural Seekers and the Tourist Encounter in Nepal

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9780226428949: Far Out: Countercultural Seekers and the Tourist Encounter in Nepal
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Westerners have long imagined the Himalayas as the world’s last untouched place and a repository of redemptive power and wisdom. Beatniks, hippie seekers, spiritual tourists, mountain climbers—diverse groups of people have traveled there over the years, searching for their own personal Shangri-La. In Far Out, Mark Liechty traces the Western fantasies that captured the imagination of tourists in the decades after World War II, asking how the idea of Nepal shaped the everyday cross-cultural interactions that it made possible.
 
Emerging from centuries of political isolation but eager to engage the world, Nepalis struggled to make sense of the hordes of exotic, enthusiastic foreigners. They quickly embraced the phenomenon, however, and harnessed it to their own ends by building tourists’ fantasies into their national image and crafting Nepal as a premier tourist destination. Liechty describes three distinct phases: the postwar era, when the country provided a Raj-like throwback experience for rich Americans; Nepal’s emergence as an exotic outpost of hippie counterculture in the 1960s; and its rebranding into a hip adventure destination, which began in the 1970s and continues today. He shows how Western projections of Nepal as an isolated place inspired creative enterprises and, paradoxically, allowed locals to participate in the global economy. Based on twenty-five years of research, Far Out blends ethnographic analysis, a lifelong passion for Nepal, and a touch of humor to produce the first comprehensive history of what tourists looked for—and found—on the road to Kathmandu.

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Mark Liechty is associate professor of anthropology and history at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
 

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Far Out is a wonderful book. Part cultural history, part urban anthropology, it provides a deep and rich account of the changing contours of the East-West encounter in legendary Kathmandu over much of the twentieth century. This book will change skeptics’ minds about the serious intellectual value of tourism studies.” (Sherry Ortner, University of California, Los Angeles)

“Liechty masterfully untangles colorful skeins of stories surrounding the fabled countercultural draw of young Westerners to Nepal. He follows threads backward to Nepal’s history and the nineteenth-century Western fascination with Himalayan mysteries; outwards to geopolitical transformations enabling mass travel in the mid-twentieth century; and forward to the responses of Nepalis through transformed youth culture, tourist infrastructure, literary accounts, and reminiscences. Far Out spins a many-stranded cultural history of encounter.” (Kirin Narayan, author of My Family and Other Saints)

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