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

97 - War


Travellers from nations allied to the War on Terror face the unique challenge of an ever-shrinking number of viable destinations. The global struggle against terrorism has rendered an increasing number of countries inaccessible. This inaccessibility has a direct impact on the nature and purpose of postmillennial travel writing. During the 1960s and 1970s, travellers journeyed through countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, the Sudan and Tunisia. Yet many of today's travellers are deterred by war, terrorist attacks and prohibitive insurance costs. The clear exception is the war reporter. War reporters are uniquely equipped, and professionally obliged to enter conflict zones. Moreover, they have a professional investment in providing authoritative news coverage in line with mainstream news values (Youngs and Hulme 2002, 10), and which does not alienate their official sources (Pedelty 1995).

Journalists’ turn to travel writing raises clear questions about travel and ethics. Postcolonial critics have focused on travel writing's colonial origins (Said 1978; Syed 1996), leading to the genre's asymmetrical and unidirectional mode of representation (Clark 1999; Lisle 2006). While much late twentieth-century travel writing negotiates and comments upon the genre's imperialist orientation, war reporters tend to adopt less self-reflexive approaches. The route taken by journalists who produce travel writing has been markedly anthropological. Travel writing in the anthropological mode carries the attendant risk of an unquestioned belief in anthropology's integrity as a discipline.

The anthropological turn in travel writing by war reporters can be largely explained by journalists’ professional frustration at the restrictions placed upon them by the increasingly narrow requirements of transnational, consolidated mainstream news outlets. To remedy this, war reporters have turned to travel writing. As the correspondent Christina Lamb observes, there are ‘details […] you [as a journalist] would like to convey and yet […] you can't get that in; those pieces are very much news-driven’ (Fowler 2007, 256). Elsewhere she notes her frustration with male news editors, who she believes require accounts of actual fighting rather than ‘stuff from behind the scenes’ (258). There is a corresponding concern by many journalists that the strictures of war reporting prevent women's voices being heard due to their association with the domestic sphere. Part of the solution to this dilemma has been to produce longer-length features for weekend newspapers or to write books which offer behind-the-scenes accounts of war zones.