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 WorkCountry: Portugal
Day: 4 - Lisbon - Tuesday, 24 June
This field lab takes us to the celebrated walled town of Óbidos, build above an ancient Roman settlement. Here we will walk through the narrow, winding medieval streets, and visit several sites in this popular Portuguese tourist destination, as we discuss the ramifications of heritage tourism (including the town’s annual touristic “medieval market” festival) for village residents. Our visit will be enhanced by our meeting with a Portuguese tourism scholar who has conducted long-term anthropological research in this village. After a Portuguese meal in a local restaurant, we will continue on to the town of Fatima, an important Catholic shrine and pilgrimage site dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Each year, thousands of Catholic pilgrims travel to this site, where the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to three shepherd children six times in 1917. Via our tour of the religious structures at this site, as well as the homes of the three shepherd children, we will reflect on the overlapping dimensions of pilgrimage and tourism, as well as on the early European roots/routes of tourism, which were anchored in religious travel. Throughout the day, we will be observing tourism and tourists in action, returning with a richer appreciation of the ritual dimensions of tourism. Academic Objectives: 1. To gain first-hand insights into the parallels between early European pilgrimages & contemporary tourist trails 2. To learn about Portugal’s efforts to develop heritage tourism sites (what is entailed in these processes, the need to balance local community needs with national aims).