License to Travel: A Cultural History of the Passport (Hardcover)
On Our Shelves Now
This surprising global history of an indispensable document reveals how the passport has shaped art, thought, and human experience while helping to define the modern world.
In License to Travel, Patrick Bixby takes the reader on a captivating journey from pharaonic Egypt and Han-dynasty China to the passport controls and crowded refugee camps of today. Along the way, you will:
- Peruse the passports of artists and intellectuals, writers and musicians, ancient messengers and modern migrants.
- See how these seemingly humble documents implicate us in larger narratives about identity, mobility, citizenship, and state authority.
- Encounter intimate stories of vulnerability and desire along with vivid examples drawn from world cinema, literature, art, philosophy, and politics.
- Witness the authority that travel documents exercise over our movements and our emotions as we circulate around the globe.
With unexpected discoveries at every turn, License to Travel exposes the passport as both an instrument of personal freedom and a tool of government surveillance powerful enough to define our very humanity.
About the Author
Patrick Bixby is Associate Professor of English at Arizona State University. His books include Unaccompanied Traveler: The Writings of Kathleen M. Murphy.
"In License to Travel, Bixby explores the passport’s linguistic journey and much else. . . . An impressive survey."
— Wall Street Journal
"A comprehensive, insightful history. . . . Bixby offers up a formidable survey of this everyday artifact and how it defines individuals and affords varying degrees of privilege and freedom, depending on one’s place of birth."
— New York Times
"Neatly lays out the mighty power of the passport and the pains of passport inequality. . . . With License to Travel, Bixby also makes the argument that applying and carrying a passport is not just an administrative hoop that travelers must jump through: Having a passport gives us the freedom to travel—and the freedom to thrive."
— AFAR Magazine
"Read this book and you’ll never again treat your passport so casually."
— Geography Realm
"Bixby offers a new cultural history of the passport, exploring its pre-history, emergence and its current status today. This beautifully written and accessible book will be a great introduction for people wanting to learn more about passports and their politics of inclusion and exclusion."
— LSE Review of Books