The French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy is such a tourist. In the Atlantic Magazine he writes about Los Angeles: “what must be true for a city to be legible? […I]t has to have a center. But Los Angeles has no center. It has districts, neighborhoods, even cities within the city, each of which has a center of some sort. But one center, one unique site as a point of reference […] nothing like that exist in Los Angeles […]. Los Angeles is, I fear, a city about which one can predict with some certainty that it will die.” Lévy behaves like a tourist; a tourist looking for the fictional city of movies and literature, the fictional city of nineteenth century Europe. This Eurocentric tourist gaze, though, overlooks that a multi-centered city is still a city.
Orhan Pamuk claims that there are two views on the city: the outside and the inside view. But isn’t a third – a middle – position possible? A position taken up by someone who isn’t really on the outside and not really – or not yet – on the inside. A position taken up by someone who goes back and forth. Beck calls such a person a place polygamist – even if this person is not a frequent traveler, even if this person doesn’t collect air miles. After all, not every person residing outside her or his country of origin – in the sense of birth place – is a tourist. Indeed, a tourist stays on the outside to gaze merely at surfaces, and the same can be said of most expats.
After so many years in Indonesia in Indonesia, I’m obviously – at least in my own eyes – no longer a tourist, and I like to claim an in-between position. For me, the city of Bandung has by now many personal memories for I have traveled its streets countless times. I feel at home here, even if I’m still seen as an outsider. Bandung has nested underneath my skin – the dust, the dirt, the heat, the jams, the noise – the thrills for me, the urban junkie.