Anthropology of Tourism (Section 2)

3590-502:
Discipline: Anthropology
Instructor: Adams
Credits: 3
Day: C
Start: 0920
End: 1035
Field Work: Day 1 - St. Petersburg - Thursday, 24 July | Russia Download Syllabus

Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. It has transformed host communities, social life, the natural environment, local economies, artistic productions, and politics. Tourism is also intrinsic to our lifestyles—most of us have been tourists or fantasize about visiting new places. St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace, Spanish Basque villages, Big Ben, Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, rural Irish pubs, Norwegian fjords, and Dublin, Ireland are all destinations that conjure up powerful images for western travelers. Why do such diverse places draw us and what are the ramifications of our visits? Over the past two decades, tourism has become an increasingly vibrant arena for anthropological and sociological study. The course examines some of the key research and debates in the field. Drawing on case studies and field observations in the countries we are visiting, the course highlights how the study of tourism and tourist practices enhances our understanding of inter-cultural interactions, ideas surrounding authenticity, cultural performances, the marketing of crafts, and the construction of ethnic, gender and racial stereotypes. The class also examines how contemporary tourism draws from historical travel patterns in Europe and how tourism intersects with personal, ethnic, and national identity construction, as well as with the political agendas of the European Union. We will discuss the parallels between European religious pilgrimages and tourism, and will engage with debates about whether ecotourism, “green tourism” and agro-tourism are viable forms of sustainable development. Finally, we will explore the extent to which tourism might serve as a peace-building force (or alternatively as a tool for terrorism), and why tourism can sometimes succeed as an avenue for cultural preservation and, in other cases, leads to degradation.

Field Work

Country: Russia
Day: 1 - St. Petersburg - Thursday, 24 July

On this field lab, students will first visit New Holland, an abandoned island in the center of St. Petersburg built under Peter the Great that was once an industrial and military site, and has since become a contested space over plans to develop the island as either luxury hotels for foreigners or an local contemporary arts district. There we’ll learn how the current development team is attempting to balance the needs of different groups in the city, as well as survey the island’s ongoing construction. From there, we will walk to our lunch destination on Nevsky Prospekt, the lively central thoroughfare of the city. Following lunch, we’ll explore a nearby souvenir market behind the Church of the Savior on Blood. This stop will enable student documentation of the many different representations of Russia and Russian culture through the objects on sale for the (largely foreign) clientele. For a richer understanding of how Russia and Petersburg are depicted for domestic tourists, we’ll proceed on to the Siege of Leningrad Museum, which commemorates the disastrous encirclement of the city by German forces in World War II, an event with powerful significance for Russians. Finally, we’ll head to the Smolny Convent and Cathedral, where the St. Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development is located, and meet with municipal officials tasked with promoting the city as a tourist destination both at home and abroad. Our return to port from this meeting will be provided by water taxi, which will wend its way through the rivers and canals of the city, giving a panorama of the city as it was meant to be seen—from the water. Academic Objectives: 1. Explore the contested space of an undeveloped island in the city to see how sustainable tourism balances the needs of the visitors and city residents; 2. Document the different ways in which ‘Russianness’ is evoked through souvenirs for foreign tourism; 3. Learn about how the city and a WWII museum deals with collective trauma and historical memory, and discuss the role of commemoration in nation-building and culture; 4. Talk with officials responsible for promoting the tourism potential of the city, and find out their priorities and plans;
5. Observe how the city’s geography, in particular its waterways, has influenced its development