Accepted paper:

'Paradise is as paradise doesn't': arresting images and visual embodiment in a tourist encounter in Belize


Kenneth Little (York University)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

There is a lot more to the tourist encounter with local Belizians than meets the eye. On March 9, 2004 a "foreign" yacht mysteriously anchored off of Placencia Point, Belize. Inexplicably, it left four days later. No one ever figured out whose boat it was or what it was doing in Placencia. This paper explores how the "mystery boat" served to focus anxieties and wild speculations about tourist encounters. These were evident in the excessive exchange of conspiracy stories about US spies, drug dealers, strange tourist, crazy locals, and corruption, a flow of narrative that conjured a nervous dread that agitated the smooth, sun-drenched visual images of the place. The boat was an arresting image and I track the troubling state of suspense and suspension that haunted the place and its people and that lingered as a troubled impulse that tried to "make sense" of things while the boat was present. More generally this paper tracks the productive space of an encounter that is fashioned between locals and tourists, where images of a beach paradise rub up against a disrupting picture of a local world "gone wild" for tourists. What happens when the fragile architectures of desire and dreamworld are bombarded with testimonies of mystery and haunting? By examining these moments of arrest and encounter, the paper gauges the impacts of new "signs of life" that are based on processes of visual embodiment that conjure rogue vitalities in bodily agitations, free-floating affects, and sites of collective excitations as emergent forces in this new state of emergency taking shape as neo-liberal exception, on the margins of global empire in Belize.

panel C1
Ways of seeing, ways of being: spectatorship and participation through tourism