Moral Apprentices at the Margins: Come and See Tours and the Making of the Ethical Self Restricted; Files Only

Williams, Sara (Spring 2021)

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This dissertation examines an increasingly popular form of travel among U.S. progressive Christians I call “journeys to the margins”: short-term packaged tours oriented toward engagement with marginalized persons as exemplary practitioners of virtues and values intended to facilitate participants’ ethical formation. I argue that journeys to the margins raise two related concerns: (1) the possibility of essentializing and instrumentalizing marginalized persons as tools for projects of ethical self-making and (2) the possibility that the structural form of commodified travel limits a move from instrumentalism to mutuality and solidarity. My inquiry centers on how these ethical concerns relate to the formative potential of journeys to the margins. To address my inquiry, I use ethnographic method to examine six “Come and See” Tours of Israel/Palestine focused on solidarity with Palestinian Christians. I regard this as a case of journeys to the margins from which insights can be “extended out” to the broader ethical questions I have raised. After offering a thick account of the case, I draw on ethnographic material from interviews, questionnaires, participant observation, and other primary source data with six tours to argue that the commodified form tours take can but does not necessarily preclude ethical formation. To build my case, I begin by demonstrating how Come and See Tours package the Palestinian Christian community in ways that appeal to the ethical desires of Western Christian consumers. I situate these desires in the scholarship on “authenticity” as a modern value, revealing how they are intertwined with Orientalist and neocolonial logics. While such logics impede mutuality and constrict conditions for the kind of ethical transformation tours promise, I argue that possibilities for ethical formation arise in and in spite of this. Drawing on Foucauldian accounts of freedom and ethics, I argue that moments of moral ambiguity in which Western expectations come into question afford the most expansive possibilities for ethical formation, the deepening of moral agency, and the cultivation of relationships of accountability and care. I suggest that to align more fully with their moral ideals, journeys to the margins should center such moral ambiguity rather than obscure it in favor of “smoother” moral narratives.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Come and See, Go and Tell 1

Journeys to the Margins in Relationship to Similar Forms of Travel 7

Pilgrimage 9

Tourism 13

Educational Immersion 19

Short-Term Mission 22

The Structural Form of Journeys to the Margins 28

The Ethical Aspirations of Journeys to the Margins 33

The Ethical Stakes of Journeys to the Margins 37

An Invitational Ethics 40

Case Study and Method 43

Access, Power, and Positionality 47

Map of the Present Work 53

Chapter One: Creative Resistance Through Tourism: 

Come and See Tours in Context 58

Come and See Tours in the Scholarship 61

Come and See Tours in Theological and Historical Perspective 65

Palestinian Liberation Theology 67

The Rise of Alternative Tourism as “Creative Resistance” 87

The Response of the “Churches of the World” 99

Chapter Two: Ethics in Situ: Come and See Tours as an Extended Case Study 105

Tour Profiles: Curating “Come and See” 108

Participant Profiles: Who Comes to See? 119

Chapter Three: Moral Commodities and the Practice of Freedom 131

Moral Commodities and the Outsourced Ethical Subject 134

Marketing the Moral: Brochures, Websites, and Itineraries 139

The “Living Stones”: An Etymology 150

Authenticity and Modern Selves 158

Authenticity and the “Living Stones” 162

Ethical Authenticity and the Practice of Freedom 170

Chapter Four: Come and See: The Ethical Affordances of Moral Ambiguity 176

How Should Peacemakers Think About Suicide Bombers? 179

What is the Role of “Balance” in Peacemaking? 197

Chapter Five: Go and Tell: Re-Envisioning the Ethical Self at Home 211

Vocation: Becoming a “Missional Activist” 215

Religious Orientation: Becoming “Global Bridge-Builders” 226

Life Stage: Activist Retrospectives, Activist Experimentation 239

Conclusion: Toward an Ethic of Journeys to the Margins 248

Appendices 256

Appendix A: Methodological Appendix 256

Appendix B: The Politics of Naming: A Word on Terms 263

Appendix C: Oslo II Map of the West Bank 266

Appendix D: Acronyms Key 267

Appendix E: Tour Reference Key 268

Appendix F: Tour Demographics 269

Appendix G: Map of Itinerary Stops by Tour 271

Appendix H: Participant Questionnaire 272

Bibliography 274

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