Anthropology of Tourism (Section 3)

Discipline: Anthropology
Instructor: Adams
Credits: 3
Day: C
Start: 0920
End: 1035
Field Work: Day 1 - Stockholm - Thursday, 31 July | Sweden 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: Sweden
Day: 1 - Stockholm - Thursday, 31 July

This field lab takes us to two of Sweden’s most celebrated museums in order to better understand how decisions are made about how to portray a nation’s past and heritage to current day visitors. The field lab will also give students an opportunity to do their own ethnographic observations of tourist behavior. The Skansen Museum and Zoo is the world’s oldest open-air museum, founded in 1891 (Sweden’s older equivalent to Colonial Williamsburg). Located on the island of Djurgården, within the city limits of Stockholm, it offers visitors the opportunity to tour the “traditional rural Swedish cultures.” Skansen displays an array of Swedish lifestyles and Swedish social conditions from the 16th- mid 20th centuries (from the Skåne farmstead in the south to the Sami camp in the north). We will spend the morning visiting this open-air museum, with time allotted for students to conduct their own mini-ethnographic fieldwork on tourism behavior in the park. We will also meet with museum officials to learn about how decisions are made regarding how to represent Sweden’s past to the public. After lunch at the park, we will proceed to the Vasa Museum, Sweden’s most-visited museum. This maritime museum displays “the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged” (the 64-gun Vasa, a warship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628). Since its excavation, the Vasa ship has become a key symbol of Sweden’s “great power period.” At this museum we will consider the depiction of Sweden’s glorious past.  Throughout the day, we will be observing how certain aspects of the nation’s past are commemorated for domestic and international tourists. We will also be observing tourists in action, returning with a richer appreciation of the ritual dimensions of tourism. Academic Objectives:   1. To learn about Swedish tourism park curatorial decisions about how to represent a complex and varied past to both citizens and outsiders. 2. To observe and document tourists’ activities in Swedish tourism sites.