In Search of Lost Cities: Imagined Geographies and the Allure of the Fake (2015)


‘Fake Paris’ in Tianducheng, China

The Diffractions Graduate Journal for the Study of Culture, run by the Lisbon Consortium, has published my article in their 5th issue: ‘Urban Imaginaries’ (Fall, 2015). Employing  Edward Said’s notion of ‘imagined geographies’  and Robert Alter’s notion of ‘phantasmagoria’, my new article ‘In Search of Lost Cities: Imagined Geographies and the Allure of the Fake’, looks at the portrayal of famous cities in popular culture and media, and discusses the touristic disillusionment with the ‘real’ city. Here is the abstract:

Despite audiences being aware of the way in which popular culture frames and invents history, places and people, these representations inevitably impinge on a viewer’s initial conception of various global landscapes and features, particularly the nature of an urban environment so often depicted through the lens of popular culture. It has been well established that the disparity between one’s expectations and the reality of a city’s layout and feel is stark, and that tourists are often confronted with the reality of a city. These episodes of touristic disillusionment stem from a fairly basic departure from romanticised images that circulate throughout the media and popular culture as ‘reality’, creating phenomena such as the ‘Paris Syndrome’ in which tourists express despair at a city’s realistic environment. In these instances, the imagined city – created by recycled media images and a person’s own psychological mapping – gives way to reality, but does not completely diminish. Instead, tourists often seek alternate destinations that substitute or even imitate real cities, fully aware of the staged authenticity of such sites. This paper interrogates how such images of a city are constructed in the first place, and examines the subsequent response of tourists who continuously seek what Umberto Eco calls the ‘hyperreal’ landscape in place of the real city.

Click here to read the whole paper.

The issue also features urban photography by artist Pedro Magalhães. See his photography here.

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