The following report comes to us from UT American Studies professor Dr. Nhi Lieu with photos by Toan Leung:
I often feel a sense of accomplishment when my students tell me I have taken the joy out of their leisure after they have honed their critical thinking skills. I knew this would be my greatest challenge when I planned our summer vacation to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, early in spring. My husband and I wanted to go to an all-inclusive, cookie-cutter resort where we could relax and unplug. Our intention was to escape the frenetic work pace we have been accustomed to all year long. We wanted to slow down, not be constrained by the clock, and spend some quality time with our children. For the few days we were away, we would enjoy the natural beauty of the environment (the topaz blue sea, white sandy beaches, and tropical Caribbean breezes), as well as the simulacra (contrived tropical gardens, immaculately maintained grounds, and fantastical feats of resort architecture) that invited visitors from around the world. The “all-inclusive” resort surely met our expectations, but stark realities of the tourism industry made it difficult for me to completely enjoy my stay. Tourism is the most powerful generator of revenue and capital of the island nation. The challenge was on as I tried to escape all of the realities of the hierarchies in order for me to do some pleasure reading. My book of choice, Monique Truong’s Bitter in the Mouth, is a deeply troubling book about identity formation, racialization, and synesthesia, but that will require another discussion.