Kincaid, “A Small Place” and Sontag, “Regarding the Pain of Others”

The two books by Kincaid and Sontag respectively share a similar theme that by recalling the old and dark history, we should contemplate how our pleasure is connected to the suffering of others. 


In the book A Small Place, Kincaid mentions the ugliness of those tourists that exploits the poorer people for their own pleasure. According to Kincaid, this is more like a spiritual form of utilization rather than direct exploitation that the beauty of tourist destinations can be a cause of suffering for locals (“A Small Place: Themes”). For instance, Antigua’s sunny and blue sky indicates that their fresh water is fairly valuable and rare because of the lack of rain. On the other hand, tourists just do not care about it at all since the beauty of the scenery is the most important for them. 


In the book Regarding the pain of others, Sontag mainly addresses the matters of obligation and domination. She claims that even though shocking war photographs have ethical value and contribute to significant representations of a country’s collective memory, our culture driven by media is overloaded with the images of brutality (“Regarding the Pain of Others, by Susan Sontag”). As the violence and suffering being the prevailing news, photographers and ideologues who are morally aware have become progressively anxious with problems of emotion exploitation.


Personally, I believe that the exploitation of others mentioned in both of two books is still remaining and happening in contemporary society. One obvious example would be the sweatshops that are infamous for the exploitation of the labor force. A sweatshop usually occurred in the clothing industry where a super crowded place with poor and socially unacceptable working conditions. Workers in the sweatshops are suffering under low wages for long working hours and even health problems. I would say this phenomenon is morally ugliness just like tourism in A Small Place according to what Kincaid infers.


“Regarding the Pain of Others, by Susan Sontag.” Garage, 2013,

“A Small Place: Themes.” SparkNotes, Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

39 thoughts on “Kincaid, “A Small Place” and Sontag, “Regarding the Pain of Others”

  1. Hello,
    I really enjoyed reading your post and wanted to add that a problem with photographs in general is that only a moment of emotions are captured. Photographs can also be manipulated to create an intended vision. I like the authors stance on not including photographs and instead describing the images to us because it allows the reader to create an image in their head first.

  2. Thank you for doing your research and exploring more information about Sontag and Kincaid’s work.

    Something that stuck out to me and reminded me of a situation familiar to me was when you talked about tourism exploiting poor people for their own pleasure. Unfortunately, I had to experience people from my own home town doing something similar, both consciously cracking jokes and unconsciously judging Italy and their culture when I went on a school trip. One student I knew, a tourist, had to go to the bathroom so badly and could not hold it in, that they had peed on a wall outdoors. We were in Rome and had been visiting a plaza that was unique in its architecture and history, and the tourist had completely disregarded its sense of beauty and publicly urinated on it. For whatever reason, other kids had seen it funny, but I was truly disgusted. Now reflecting back on it, I am disgusted with myself that I had not stepped up and said something towards this individual. They epitomized the problem that Kincaid refers to where tourists utterly disregard the most important beauty and scenery of a home to a culture that is not their own.

  3. Thank you for providing context on how both books share the theme of exploitation of others. While I was reading what you wrote on The Small Place, a specific example came to mind. As you stated, tourists often exploit poorer people for their own pleasure. This is something we are seeing today during COVID times. Typical “destination” places, such as Hawaii and Puerto Rico, are being overflooded by tourists. These countries, however, lack the resources needed to successfully combat the spread of COVID that is causing. Tourists come to be able to enjoy their vacation and relax, without thinking how that’s harming the locals. As for the second type of exploitation, I think that we as a society have increasingly become numb to graphic images that depict brutality.

  4. Thank you for your insightful thoughts and summary for our readings this week. I took a special interest in your comments about tourism. This form of exploitation is hard to understand, because on the one hand tourism is bringing money into the country and is creating jobs, but on the other hand the locals typically do not reap the benefits of the tourism industry. A tourist typically has no awareness of the challenges the country may face and is usually kept hidden within the resort walls. Once the economy is focused around tourism, it will focus on what the tourists want, and not what the locals want.

  5. Thank you for your research and for the information provided of the texts. This context presentation is very informative and telling as I agree with your opinion that in society today we still see how sectors of people enjoy pleasure and how their pleasure is directly connected to the pain and suffering of others. Your points on the book “Regarding the Pain of Others” resonate with me as the images from war as extremely brutal and showcase massive suffering and pain yet they are still heavily promoted worldwide and treated as a moment worth captivating and sharing. This reminds of a conflict I see and read about often in social media when a person films themselves giving money to a person in need or providing a form of assistance for them. While some argue that this is good as it is heartwarming to see and can inspire others to act in the same manner others argue it is disrespectful to put someone who is struggling all over social media as they can be ridiculed and they also argue the person assisting might not be doing it with good intentions and only seeking fame. Social media has become a way in which people attain information rapidly and in a way has enlarged the problem of attaining satisfaction/pleasure from the pain of others.

  6. This research was very helpful to me before reading this week’s works. Your comments regarding the major themes really helped me collect my thoughts while reading. I completely agree with your comments regarding the exploitation of people. I feel that this is very easy to see through the lens Kincaid provides regarding tourists. Rich Americans often travel to struggling countries and attend fancy resorts that exploit their employees. Many of the employees at these resorts are not paid fair wages, especially in comparison to the money people pay to stay there. Your example regarding the clothing industry exploitation is seen so often in fast fashion these days. It is sad how many examples of exploitation there. truly are, and this is an important theme to understand about these works.

  7. Thank you for sharing these developing themes that occur in the books this week. One thing that stuck out to me is in your first paragraph where you make mention of how we should ‘contemplate how our pleasure is connected to the suffering of others’. I think at times people get wrapped up on how something impacts them and do not even think on what it does to someone else. Having an open mind can change your prospective and see that everyone is unique in their own way. However, if nobody speaks up about what is happening others will not know and rectifications can’t be made.

  8. I liked this post and how you dove into the issue of people over looking and not appreciating certain things and treating them badly. Your mention of sweatshops makes me think of how people are against those harsh and unfair conditions of the workers and children yet this still will buy clothes from these places. The best way to take a stand against these places it to stop supporting them.

  9. I think this context presentation is really informative and helps me to better understand the struggles of poor people living in highly visited cities and countries. I think that it is important to realize that when tourists enter these places they are not thinking about who lives there but rather making the place their own for the time they are there. This is not fair at all to the locals who work hard to keep their country or city growing and successful and often times undermines their hard work. I think that those who do have the privilege to travel and view these beautiful places should aim to immerse themselves into the culture already created and not create a culture of their own that is not beneficial to those who live there.

  10. I thought you did a great job on your context presentation. One thing that caught my attention was when you mentioned that in the book A Small Place, there is ugliness of those tourists that makes use of the poorer people for their own pleasures. I feel like many people fall guilty to this. Many people travel to places and are caught up in their own life that they don’t understand the struggles of the less fortunate people living in the main tourist areas. I also think that when tourists do travel to a new area, that they should be more open to their views and surroundings. One cool part about being a tourist is that you have the opportunity to try new things, new foods,and you should also try a new open perspective.

  11. Thank you for sharing this context presentation. It is important for us all to check ourselves and question our intentions behind our actions as well as examine the impacts that our actions create. We may use tourism with the intent of seeing the world but we do not always think about how it may impact the people that live in the places we travel to. We may view people in other countries or regions as poor or underprivileged when in reality we know nothing about their culture or values.

  12. I think the exploitation of others is a human trait that with never go away. Think about slavery. It’s been around for thousands of years and has just recently been abolished in America, but it still exists in other forms like the sweatshops you mentioned. Before slavery, there were wars for control over smaller and weaker nations like in the religious crusades and Viking raids. My point is, if there is exploitation to be had somewhere, someone will take advantage of it which I get is a negative viewpoint to have. Sontag talks about this exploitation through travel and war photographs as her specific examples. I think you really focused on the negative sides to tourism such as litter and exploitation of locals but tourists also bring a huge amount of revenue for businesses and can really help a town’s economy. Overall, I really liked your topic as it gave me insight into the exploitation of media in travel as talked about in our readings this week.

  13. I enjoyed the background you have given us on the Kincaid and Sontag readings. When you bring up the lack of water and beauty of Antigua to tourists, it reminds me of so many colonized areas around the world where the people living in the area have rough lives, while tourists come to stay temporarily in what seems to them to be paradise. I appreciate how you state that we should think about how our pleasure connects to the pain of others. In this case, our pursuit of pleasure creates Others through the exploitation of tourism.

  14. Hi chen,
    I really enjoy your context presentation about the Kincaid’s “A Small Place” and Sontag’s “Regarding the Pain of Others”. Till today I have read the chapter 5-7 about the Sontag’s book, I totally agree with your point that exploitation of others mentioned in the book are still remaining. As Sontag’s book said, the war photos are meant to shock the viewer and remind the existence of some kind of pain. The war recorded by photography, and the indifferent gaze hiding behind the photographs, and the doubts that force us to reflect. In Sontag’s pitying eyes, The lens selects a picture and frames it, but its original intention is not to correct our ignorance of history and the source of pain. Such images are nothing more than inviting us to pay attention, to reflect, and to Understand and examine whether the excuses provided by those in power are reasonable. Thanks for your post!

  15. Thank you for your great background information on both the Kincaid and Sontag readings. The ideas you mentioned about Sontag’s “Regarding the Pain of Others” and how the media only depicts the harshest brutal pictures. This is in order for the publication and the news sources to get viewers because it seems more important when such images are shown. This is definitely a form of manipulation seen prevalently in news media today. Furthermore, Kincaid’s “A Small Place”, shows another form of deception in tourism as mentioned which reminds me of how resorts are placed at the best and safest parts of places and make it seem that the whole country is built this way. This is a false perception and tourism is exploiting those that live in the country in the worse areas with fewer resources. Once again, great context presentation and a very interesting topic to delve deeper into.

  16. You did a good job with your context presentation. There are a lot of countries that are only shown as poor or feature the wars, but not the rest of the country and what is happening. It is sad how many real word examples there are besides sweat shop factories for taking advantage of countries cheap labor. I watched a video of farmers growing cocoa beans and explaining how little they made, but they had not even tried chocolate before.

  17. Hello! I thought that your context presentation was intellectually stimulating. As you said in your context presentation, I think it’s extremely important as a tourist to be conscientious about where you are and realize that not every destination is perfect. A lot of the more popular countries for tourism have systematic injustices that tourists seem to glaze over. It’s important as visitors to be aware of the systematic injustices that are present. Furthermore, I totally agree with your statement when you said that the concept of Otherness is present in tourism. You did a great job connecting those two points!

  18. I really liked how you mentioned sweatshops as part as your presentation. When I was in high school in one of my classes we watched documentaries about factories where iPhones were made and where beads were made, and it shows the exploitation of these workers. In these factories is also where these workers had to live, and rarely got time off. They were so overworked many of them were suffering from exhaustion and very bad mental health problems. The factory would have bars on the windows so workers couldn’t hurt themselves. It is a very very toxic industry and it is extremely unfair to these workers.

  19. Hello,
    I really enjoyed reading your context presentation. I like how you summarized the reading for this week. I liked how you mentioned sweatshops as an example of exploitation that is still going on in contemporary society today. So many of these working conditions are going on and are being used for example many clothing companies have these poor working conditions and people are still funding these companies because their clothes are cheap, but to what extent? Little children are being forced to work in these poor conditions and it’s very selfish.

  20. Thank you for your further insight of both the reading this week. One thing that I found to stick out to me the most was the example of workers in sweatshops working harder, yet getting paid less. When reading ahead of responding, I noticed the example of ugliness also being in “Regarding the Pain of Others”, so the seeing that the two have similar terms, also gives me a bigger picture of how similarly related they are. This informs me to pay close attention to their similarities, where some of our reading do not always share this amount, but they have their separate stories that do not always coalign.

  21. Hello, I enjoyed your comments on the readings for this week. I think you make a very valid point where you talk about how people are still exploiting others for their own pleasure/good. I also think you bring attention how sweatshops are still around today. It is very saddening to hear how little some people are paid to work and what conditions those people work in. It’s quite ridiculous and inhumane. People struggle just to make so little probably to support others as well. Good job on the context presentation.

  22. Thank you for your Context-Research Presentation, I really enjoyed reading it! It allowed me to better contextualize the text and gain a better comprehensive understanding. I am glad that you brought attention towards issues regarding exploitation. I feel that too often, issues like exploitation are overlooked by many. For this reason, I think it is important that we take the time to acknowledge it and reflect upon it. The example you provided also allows us to relate it to modern society for a better understanding.

  23. I thought this was a great presentation and I enjoyed reading it. Making the comparison between the books and sweatshops used today provided a great link to help me understand how people are being exploited in the stories. The conditions workers have to deal with in sweatshops are absolutely disturbing. As you said, this is clearly morally ugly and is completely inhumane.

  24. I really liked the real-world example that you brought into the conversation about sweatshops today. It is not something that is talked about every day and that makes it very easy to sometimes forget the exploitation of cheap labor that so many of us benefit from. I thought you did a great job of researching and connecting the readings with the context of the times and what the authors were trying to convey in their messaging.

  25. Hello,
    This context presentation was very fun to read and it was also extremely informative. You also brought up the real world example of sweatshops and did a good job explaining what it is and how it affects people. This was a good comparison to see how people are taken advantage of and how terrible the situations which they live in are. You are right that this exploitation is happening today and is extremely morally unjust but the sad truth is that it happens and is much more common than people may think.

  26. I really enjoyed your presentation, and appreciate the connections you had between the literature we are reading and the research you did. It allows me to connect the topic we read about to situations I already know about. The comparison between the two also allowed me to understand the text a bit more. Good Job!

  27. I enjoyed reading your context presentation! I think it is important to discuss the ethical issue of sweatshops because it is not spoken about enough. During our daily lives we use iPhones and other things we deem “necessary” and we do not stop to think of where these things come from. The people constructing these items do not have the privilege of owning the devices and live a disadvantaged life while others prosper off of their work.

  28. I really enjoyed this context presentation. I appreciated how you brought attention to the negative impacts of sweatshops. I feel like this is an issue that is very prominent in the world today, but doesn’t get nearly enough attention. Furthermore, I liked how you were able to make the connection between injustices in the labor force such as sweatshops and the reading. I think issues such as these need more attention, and this presentation did a good job at shining light on this particular issue.

  29. I enjoy reading your content introduction. I like how you summarized this week’s reading material. I found that the one thing that impressed me the most was that the workers in the sweatshop worked hard but were paid less. It is unfortunate to hear that some people are paid very little and what their working conditions are. This is very absurd and inhumane. People struggle very little, and it isn’t easy to provide support for others. This is morally ugly and inhumane. But the sad truth is that this kind of exploitation does happen, and it’s much more common than people think.

  30. Hi! I thought your context presentation was very informative and provided great context for the readings. It was interesting to read about tourism and the ignorance of those who travel thinking that everything they do or see if solely for their pleasure. There is no respect for other cultures and the meaning behind their significant history. There are plenty of examples of this in which tourists travel without knowing about the cultures and traditions of a country. It is ignorance like this that makes Americans seem pretentious and ignorant.

  31. Hello! Thank you for your context presentation. I particularly find the connection of our pleasure to the suffering of others that you mentioned fascinating. It reminds me of the idea of ‘othering’ that we have mentioned throughout the class; the one defines themselves by defining the other as the other. There is some kind of sick enjoyment that one gets in exalting themselves above those around them.

  32. Hi! Thank you for your context presentation. The presentation recall my memory of Washington D.C. trip. When I traveled D.C. Chinatown in midnight, i saw there was many homeless people wandering on the street, which made me feel upset. I lived in a nice hotel and ate delicious food in D.C., but these homeless people couldn’t find a place to shelter in a freezing winter. Your context presentation gives me a deeper understanding on readings!

  33. Thank you for this great presentation! I had no idea that the tourism industry was so capable of manipulating people for personal pleasure before reading these books. Your example of the sweatshops used to create product is one of the most public examples of this, with tourism being more like it is hidden in plain sight. I really like your point about considering the suffering that others will experience due to our desires for pleasure. That is a good point that recognizes the labor and toll that others experience to provide services or products to others. It really opens one up to the realization that exploitation is everywhere and in everything.

  34. Great context research presentation! I like how you included how the themes for both stories relate to each other. you did a great job explaining the affects of tourism and media on the places within each story. I never thought about the differing views of how tourism is affecting the locals and how the locals view tourism. You made a great point about that that really gets people thinking about it. Another great point that you made was talking about how the media affects the memory and culture of a place. I also liked how you added in the details about the “other” and the relationship that it holds within each story. Overall great context research presentation with details that will prepare us for this weeks reading.

  35. Thank you for the great context presentation for this week’s material. I think you did a fantastic job of learning about the themes of the two readings and explaining them to the rest of us. I also liked how you related the themes of the two readings to each other to show how they connect. You also did a great job then connecting these ideas and themes to todays society, saying how you believe that the exploitation of others mentioned in both of two books is still remaining and happening. overall great job and thanks for the presentation.

  36. As my peers have said, your context presentation was great foreground going into this weeks content. I really appreciated the way you compared the two stories from a wholistic perspective. I especially appreciated your analysis of what the individual narration techniques say about society overall. Finally I found the comments on photographs to be extremely interesting and thought provoking, people tend to take photos as fact and they merely show a moment in time, completely void of context. Thanks again for your presentation, it was really easy to ready and extremely helpful with my understanding of this weeks themes.

  37. This context presentation was good because it really makes you think how you relate to the world with things you tend not to pay attention to. We often times are so wrapped up in our own lives we do not notice how things we do can affect others in a negative way, such as being tourists or consumers. I’m sure with what we have learned this semester we will start to be more in tune to these kinds of things more in our own lives.

  38. Great background research on both texts for this week. In your post you made a connection on how in modern day society ugliness is apparent and is public knowledge like it is shown in the text. I think the fact that everyone is aware of sweatshops and when you mention to a person they’ll more than likely agree with the fact that they are a negative aspect of a society yet they still exist and there is little to no action done in order to prevent such operations from continuing.

  39. Hello, I think that what you said was said really well. I also think that you pointed out the most important points in your post. I agree with you that a lot of people focus on themselves and not really know about the problems other people are going through around the world. Sometimes I think a lot of people are aware of the problem but notice that it does not affect them and their lives so they do not get involve or try to help. Great work

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