Excellent essay. Postmodernism is a tricky term to pin down or hold up to the light. But you have managed to explain postmodern tourism as an abstraction on an abstraction; as a gloss or patina over the once authentic place–and how ever-modern America will fight it as Detroit is resisting ruin tourism.

But can Detroit actually rebuild? Can New Orleans? We are experiencing such huge disasters today that we might actually be entering into postmodern times; that is, a time when the will and capacity to rebuild is dwarfed by the magnitude of the loss. Such a place will become a permanent ruin, like the Colosseum in Rome.

The Colosseum was once a modern building (modern comes from the Roman word “modernus,” meaning “just now.”) Presumably, the Colosseum was repaired from time to time. But the day came when the civilization that supported the Colosseum fell and it became a permanent ruin–not because the technology to fix it had not been invented, but because the need for the structure and will to repair it was lost. That is what a postmodern world might look like.

So our postmodern world would not necessarily be a total wasteland, say, after a nuclear war, but a landscape of occasional ruin, where life has moved on. But then, the forces of neo-modernism might form extreme makeover tours, whereby tourists would sign up for vacations to fix one block in Detroit or a tornado-struck town; roll up their sleeves, get free room and board, say, and a sense of empowerment. The empire will likely strike back.

By Hudson Own. Comment in response to Welcome to Fabulous Roswell: The Rise of Postmodern Tourism by Llewellyn Hinkes-Jones The Atlantic 4-29-11.

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