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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: July 2019

26 - Domestic Ritual


‘Domestic ritual’ refers to the set of tasks performed in a house which helps to preserve the continuity of the house and the life lived therein. Travel is often thought of as an escape from home and domesticity. Critics have claimed that travel allows travellers, particularly women, to free themselves from the constraints of domestic life. Far from being an alternative to homemaking and domesticity, however, travellers – both men and women – spend much of their time in a kind of displaced home-making, creating and re-creating temporary home spaces. Beyond this, the way in which travel is written frequently replicates the rhythm of domestic ritual. There are three main strands: the objects and artefacts that travellers bring with them from home and use to re-create home in the new environment; rituals with which travellers make a new place into a home; the writing of travel and its parallels in domestic ritual.

Tim Youngs (1997, 118) has written: ‘For travellers the relationship to commodities that are taken with them becomes an important means of negotiating and affirming identity at a time when it is under threat […] worries about the instability of self can be displaced onto commodities.’ Repeatedly we find lists of objects taken appearing in accounts of travel, the listing itself part of the way in which travellers establishes their identity. For Sarah Murray (1799, 39), travelling into the Highlands of Scotland before the advent of a touristic infrastructure, a list of necessary items served to establish the possibility of being ‘at home’ in the wilds and establishing control over a land where the sublimity of the landscape threatened to overwhelm her: ‘For the inside of the carriage, get a light flat box […] the side next the travellers should fall down […] to form a table on their laps […] holes for wine bottles, to stand upright in […] tea, sugar, bread, and meat; a tumbler glass, knife and fork, and saltcellar, with two or three napkins.’ Murray created ‘home’ in her carriage, fitted out in ways which allowed her to dine with the manners and refinements of her upperclass London home and to set herself apart from both the landscape and the natives of Scotland.