Touring Cultures: Transformations of Travel and Theory

Touring Cultures: Transformations of Travel and Theory

Touring Cultures: Transformations of Travel and Theory

Touring Cultures: Transformations of Travel and Theory


It is becoming ever clearer that while people tour cultures, cultures and objects themselves are in a constant state of migration. This collection brings together some of the most influential writers in the field to examine the complex connections between tourism and cultural change and the relevance of tourist experience to current theoretical debates on space, time and identity.


Chris Rojek and John Urry

Peoples, cultures and objects migrate. This book draws on the expansion of social science interest in mobility, in the mobility of peoples, cultures and objects. It is now clear that people tour cultures; and that cultures and objects themselves travel. It is this two-fold aspect that will be jointly addressed in the chapters that follow. We begin this chapter with an analysis of the complex connections between tourism and cultural change, inspired by Said’s and Clifford’s notions of ‘travelling cultures’ (Said 1983; Clifford 1992).

We will begin by interrogating the very category of ‘tourism’. Is there such an entity? Does the term serve to demarcate a usefully distinct sphere of social practice? Where does tourism end and leisure or culture or hobbying and strolling begin? This book is based on the view that tourism is a term waiting to be deconstructed. Or as Marx might have said it is a chaotic conception, including within it too wide a range of disparate phenomena (Marx 1973). It embraces so many different notions that it is hardly useful as a term of social science, although this is paradoxical since Tourism Studies is currently being rapidly institutionalised within much of the academy.

One significant reason for the problematic status of tourism is that its meaning stems from its ‘other’, from the other term or terms with which it is contrasted. There are many of these, including travel, day-tripping, culture, excursion, voyaging and exploration. Its meaning constantly slides as its ‘other’ changes. This is shown in Buzard’s (1993) analysis of the tourist-traveller distinction. He brings out that in the case of many different literary and academic writers during the nineteenth century the meaning of each term continuously slides under that of its other. Indeed more generally the very critiques of the role of the ‘tourist’, as found within many discourses surrounding ‘travel’, are in a sense part of the very nature of tourism as a complex set of social discourses and practices.

And yet at the same time it is believed by both the academy and the wider public that tourism does in fact possess a self-evident essence. People still want to ‘get away from it all’. Yet interestingly this desire for contrast and escape is increasingly freighted with worries that the impetus for tourism is itself destroying the possibility of tourism. For example, it seems obvious to the public and to academic commentators that in the past three decades Majorca, to take but one instance, has been more or less destroyed by a engulfing process which can be unambiguously identified as tourism or mass tourism; or that the retreat to Miami Beach has developed

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