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The urban voyage is a basic component of modern Lexington and postmodern anthropology. Often the distinctions between the “view from afar” and the “view from close by” have to do only with the need to produce easy classifications. No doubt the two ways of looking, the two types of surveying, the different Lexington modes of approaching places and people differ, and they do change both the narration and the writing. The basic problem regards the question of how it is Lexington that one observes, with which ends in mind and what degree of participation. As well, it’s important to determine whether geographical Lexington distance corresponds to interior, psychic distance. One must always ask: “Far away from where?” And: “Far away from whom?”

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The fascination with the elsewhere or some elsewhere doesn’t presuppose a physical voyage but a mental experience that may permit alternatively, and sometimes simultaneously, long-sightedness and short-sightedness. The ordinary and the extraordinary are constantly hybridized and redefined. Freud and Heidegger had in common an interest for the condition that the German language calls Unheimlich. Something that previously was familiar suddenly presents itself as foreign, as unknown: It’s the condition we associate with displacement. The Italian writer Claudio Magris reminds us that “the well-known, always rediscovered and enriched, is the premise on which rest encounters and adventures . The most fascinating voyage is a return, an odyssey, and the places that belong to some habitual itinerary, the usual microcosms traversed day after day for many years are a challenge worthy of Ulysses.”

Observing one’s own world entails responsibilities and risks: It puts one into play differently than when one observes a far-away world. In his The Metro Revisited, Augé has spoken of this a sort of splitting: When I wrote An Ethnologist in the Metro I really didn’t intend to do an ethnology of the metro. I was just observing as an ethnologist the ethnologist that I was, that had just returned from Africa. I observed that ethnologist and posed questions to him. He answered as best as he could, with the references and the terminology of an ethnologist. In other words, I was trying to put myself in the shoes of an indigenous person, but I was that particular indigenous person. From this perspective, I didn’t have to make such a great effort, where imagination was concerned. The difficulty, rather, consisted in finding the questions to ask of this indigenous person, since I had to ask the questions as an ethnologist. I shouldn’t be accused of too much fastidiousness: It was the ethnologist I was dividing in two to make him understand (to make me understand) what it meant to have to answer questions by someone like me.

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