Early on in her piece, Susan Stewart argues for a process by which, through souvenirs, the external is subsumed into the domestic, as “external experience is internalized.” (Stewart 134) To some extent souvenirs do help domesticate “otherness” in one’s own imagination, Yet Stewart also claims that souvenirs must be “marked as exterior and foreign” while at the same time “arising directly from the experience of its possessor.” (Stewart 147) The contrast in these two positions arises as Stewart claims for a double function in souvenirs, both as objects to be internalized and domesticated, and objects to remain foreign and exotic.
I believe that when Stewart talks about a “transformation of exterior into interior,” (Stewart 137) the author focuses on size: the reduction of large experiences into smaller traces that can be managed more easily by individual consciousness. This, however, is different from internalization of the object itself. In fact, souvenirs must remain external to the person bringing them back from a trip, in order to be able to stimulate the senses into remembering and narrating.
Looking at different websites on photography for tourists, the “exterior” quality of souvenirs is highlighted by the repeated attempts to give context to the images. No matter what, the final product, the photograph, will ultimately be removed from the context of when and where it was taken. The photograph will also be able to represent only a brief moment, maybe a very worthy one, but nonetheless an incomplete and external part of the trip. (I am also thinking about Arlene’s post on the difficulty of sharing a photographic album: the images remain somewhat distant and foreign to the experience itself. Ultimately, the experience is personal and can only be communicated through narration and by leaning on technological aids.) Technology can function as a prosthetic device for memory, but we still have not been able to create a souvenir tat can recreate a complete environment to bring back “home.” In fact, the souvenir must remain external to the individual in order for it to be shared on returning.
This is not to say that all memories of “otherness” and tourist experience depend on external stimuli. As we have seen in culinary tourism, there are occasions in which experience can me literally internalized, as food is ingested and enters one’s body. I would argue that in this case we may talk about making the external interior, as we embody parts of our experience through consuming it with our senses. In the case of food, ingestion makes interior and domesticates an experience, without necessarily reducing it to a metonymy a larger context.