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Airplane Mode: An Irreverent History of Travel by Shahnaz Habib


Xolo Score 3.75/5


Airplane Mode offers travel enthusiasts an exploration of the cultural, societal, and historical transformations brought about by the phenomenon of travel and migration. As a writer and translator of South Indian descent, Habib examines the inequalities of global mobility. Through personal anecdotes, historical narratives, and insightful analysis, Airplane Mode provides a comprehensive examination and reflection of who is afforded the privilege of mobility.




Habib’s meticulous research demonstrates a keen understanding of the interconnectedness of various aspects of travel and the socio-political implications of tourism. One’s desire to travel depends on a person’s entitlement. Through her exploration of colonialism, globalization, and environmental sustainability, she encourages readers to critically examine the impact of their travel habits on the world around them. For instance, she delves into the history of passports and how they are first and foremost documents “preventing travel or permitting travel only in state-approved itineraries.” Passportism is a big chunk of immigration policy, especially in the United States, that gatekeeps based on historically racist foreign policy.

“We are told, not only does travel make us better people; travel makes the world a better place: a win-win. Travel has been sold to us as the ultimate horizon-expanding, mind-broadening, self-improvement experience.” Habib isn’t trying to make a case for canceling your next family vacation, but she clarifies that traveling is not altruistic, regardless of how you go about it. Travel is an act of consumption with rippling effects that are often harmful and extractive. The trillion-dollar tourism industry will do everything possible to package it as nothing more than natural human curiosity.

Airplane Mode offers a rich and thought-provoking exploration of travel and tourism, but it occasionally lacks coherence in its organization, with certain sections feeling disjointed or repetitive. The frequency of digressions into tangential topics meant to provide additional context distracts from the overall analysis.

With rigorous research, Habib captivates and challenges even the most conscientious traveler.

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*Disclaimer: A copy of the book was sent by the publisher

To what extent are BIPOC perspectives included in their analysis?

​How well does the author avoid writing BIPOC experiences through the white gaze?

To what extent does the author challenge white-centered beliefs?

How well does the book explore nuances between intersectional identities?








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