The Ethics of Sightseeing

The Ethics of Sightseeing

The Ethics of Sightseeing

The Ethics of Sightseeing

Synopsis

Is travel inherently beneficial to human character? Does it automatically educate and enlighten while also promoting tolerance, peace, and understanding? In this challenging book, Dean MacCannell identifies and overcomes common obstacles to ethical sightseeing. Through his unique combination of personal observation and in-depth scholarship, MacCannell ventures into specific tourist destinations and attractions: "picturesque" rural and natural landscapes, "hip" urban scenes, historic locations of tragic events, Disney theme parks, beaches, and travel poster ideals. He shows how strategies intended to attract tourists carry unintended consequences when they migrate to other domains of life and reappear as "staged authenticity." Demonstrating each act of sightseeing as an ethical test, the book shows how tourists can realize the productive potential of their travel desires, penetrate the collective unconscious, and gain character, insight, and connection to the world.

Excerpt

In the following pages I treat the symbolic terrain traversed by tourists, in their imagination and in reality, as an analogue of the unconscious with similar ethical contours, repressions, and the same potential for unexpected flashes of wit and insight. If there is any scandal here it is my abiding belief there should be no problem integrating insights from classic social theory—Marx, Durkheim, Lévi-Strauss—and psychoanalytic constructs—Freud and Lacan. My overall aim is to examine and challenge a widespread assumption about tourism, that it is beneficial to character and social relations: that is, educational, enlightening, horizon expanding, stereotype dispelling, leading to peace and understanding, et cetera. I began by noting the aim of ethics is also the improvement of human character. It is only by rigorous and consistent application of ethics to action that human beings can become more courageous, temperate, liberal, generous, magnanimous, self-respecting, gentle, and just. At the nexus of ethics and tourism there should be hope (as the charter of the World Travel Organization states) for increasing human virtue corresponding to the growth of tourist travel and sightseeing.

Or not.

Constructing analytic frameworks around institutions that support sightseeing, and around certain habits of the tourist mind, I found barriers that block ethics—and paradoxically, sightseeing. The Ethics of Sightseeing is about identifying, describing, and undoing these blockages. This is an open and uncharted field. There are few ethical considerations in . . .

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