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Keywords:

  • backpackers;
  • Irish backpackers;
  • independent travelers;
  • transnationalism;
  • tourism;
  • embodiment;
  • cultural intimacy;
  • affect

Abstract

This paper examines some of the tensions between local government authorities, residents, and backpackers occurring in a group of Sydney coastal suburbs that are the host destinations for large numbers of young independent travellers. Drawing on the concepts of ‘intimacy’ and ‘encounter’, it focuses on the kinds of embodied encounters occurring when the transnational networks of these travellers become overlaid on, and in conflict with, the patterns of occupancy and governance of relatively settled and established residential communities. These exchanges not only include the mix of experiences of local residents living side by side this group of transnational visitors, but also the interactions established among the travellers themselves. These involve new and novel relations of social and physical community formation, sexual practices, patterns of drug and alcohol consumption, as well as instances of danger, discomfort, and violence. The range and intensity of these kinds of encounters, as well as the problems frequently associated with them, appear to be increasing primarily because backpackers not only travel through but also dwell in place. One of the more neglected results of this phenomenon, is, as we suggest in this paper, a range of new encounters that are ‘intimate’ not only in the obvious sense of a meeting of diverse and physically proximate bodies. Employing the notion of ‘cultural intimacy’, we suggest that such encounters can also be said to arouse sensitivities associated with the often cherished and taken-for-granted fixities of home, place, and entitlement, for ‘visitor’ and ‘host’ alike. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.