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ATLAS Special Interest Group
Tourism and Socio Cultural Identities Research Group

Index


Introduction

Overall purpose

  • To provide a ready made network for critical discourse on tourism and tourists as they relate to social and cultural identities.

Main aims

  • Identify, synthesise and articulate problem areas
  • Develop case study material from best practice in developing tourism and its consumption to benefit indigenous peoples
  • Communicate and disseminate alternative responses to potentially destructive and unsustainable consumption of peoples, histories and cultures.

Overarching themes

  • Globalisation, identities, cultures and cultural appropriation
  • The role of tourism in social and cultural identity formation
  • Social constructions of space and the consumption of meaning

Possible topics

  • The host-guest encounters
  • Local: global dissonance, North-South dialogue
  • Media portrayals, advertising discourse and contested identities
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Land, power and rights of local people
  • Fair trade and business excellence
  • Diaspora and landless communities
  • Cultural resistance
  • Concepts of space, identity and tourism
  • Material culture and identity formation
  • Gender and equity issues.

Activities

Arising from the inaugural meeting it was agreed to make a call for papers for a book on the topic of tourism and social identities within the context of Europe and in conjunction with the conference held at the Centre for Tourism Policy Studies (CENTOPS), University of Brighton in September 2003. The results of this call will be discussed at the SIG meeting to be held in Naples 2004.

Peter Burns
University of Brighton, United Kingdom
P.M.Burns@bton.ac.uk
www.centops.org

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Annual review of activities 2006

Peter M Burns
University of Brighton, United Kingdom
P.M.Burns@bton.ac.uk

Tourism and Socio Cultural Identities Research Group published an edited collection of essays on the topic that arose from a conference held at the Centre for Tourism Policy Studies (Brighton) in 2004. The book, 'Tourism and Social Identities: Global Frameworks and Local Realities" (publisher, Elsevier: Advances in Tourism Research Series) edited by Peter Burns and Marina Novelli explores many of the issues of direct concern to the group. Here follows an edited version of the introductory remarks to the book that helps set the context. Please note that the references are listed in the book).

Social identity

At first glance, the notion of 'social identity' could be an easy concept to understand. Leaving aside for the moment the idea that our movements in and out of various groups that have various labels attached to them might be quite fluid (Bauman 2005), according to will and situations, it can mean simply that we belong to a group from which we draw a sense of 'who we are': our identity. The corollary is that we also derive this identity by comparisons with those not in our group, but who belong to other groups: the so-called 'out-groups' interrogated by Henri Tajfel and John Turner (1986) in their work on inter-group discrimination. Tajfel and Turner were interested in a range of interconnected aspects of behavioural psychology that centred on how individuals identified with social groupings, how loyalty to that group is expressed by aggression to out-groups and so on. In a sense, the system can be summarised as 'us' versus 'them' or 'self' versus 'Other' (Said 1978) and in more recent times Roger Scruton's 'The West and the Rest' (2002). Underpinning Tajfel and Turner's work is that of 'social comparison' (Festinger 1954) in which we judge our sense of worthwhileness (positive self-perception) by comparing ourselves against others and how we see others as part of the disruptive pressures characteristic of life in the early 21st Century. Examples to illustrate these points can come from almost any direction: the suburbs of Baghdad, Basque regions Europe, Kurdish regions spread over five countries, the deconstructed former Yugoslavia and so on.

These identity hotspots draw us through the paradoxes of social identity vs. national identity and into ethnocentrism, a concept that frames the debate about ethnicity, inter-ethnic relations, and similar social issues. The most common use of the term is as a descriptor for 'thinking your own group's ways as being superior to others' and 'judging other groups as inferior to your own'. The difficulty of course is that ethnocentrism seems to be a common trait, almost nature, amongst most peoples of the world. It does not take much imagination to see the Greeks or Southern Italians smiling at a British academic's obsession with timekeeping at a conference. Or that same British academic feeling completely out of character when being invited out for an evening meal at 10pm when custom 'at home' dictates going to bed with a nice cup of cocoa at that late hour! These are light-hearted feelings of difference and discomfort. But of course things can become more serious when groups believe that they are morally or intellectually superior: therein lies the roots of racism and inter-group violence characterised by the ritualistic game-playing over places next to the pool in Spanish, Greek and Turkish resorts between British and German tourists, or on a more serious note, racism and power can morph into sexual exploitation as noted in the on-line magazine, The New West Indian:

    "Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, like other economically underdeveloped holiday destinations, are marketed as culturally different places and all tourists are encouraged to view this 'difference' as a part of what they have a right to consume on their holiday. The construction of difference takes place around ideas such as 'natural' vs. 'civilised', leisure vs. work and exotic vs. mundane, rich vs. poor, sexual vs. repressive, powerful vs. powerless." (Anon 2001):

The binary differentiations might seem less than elegant to poststructuralists but nonetheless capture one aspect of identity, power and tourism in a very forceful way. It can be seen then that part of tourism's supply-side will include localised culture and people: in other words social identity becomes a commodity. This commodification invokes a controversy about people and their culture providing the backdrop for leisured relaxation and recreation (Burns and Holden, 1995). Paradoxically, on the consumption side, customer reaction against the McDonaldization of services (cf. Ritzer, 1993) whereby packaged destinations and their social identities are reduced to marketing benefits for consumers is emerging via a postmodern cynicism against the ubiquitous 'friendly natives' of tourism promotion and where 'everything somehow appears predestined' (Adorno cited in Bauman 2005:141).

Conclusion

The matters raised above, in-groups and out-groups, social identity, nationalism, ethnocentrism, postmodernism, culture etc. have great resonance for tourism studies on both sides of the 'host' - 'guest' equation (or with increased mobility perhaps we should call it a continuum). That tourism is a profoundly important economic sector for most countries and regions of the world is widely accepted even if some of the detail remains controversial (how readily we accept UNWTO and WTTC data that tourism is the world's largest industry, or that it accounts for ten per cent of the global job market!). However, as tourism matures as a subject, the theories underpinning it necessarily need to be more sophisticated; tourism cannot be simply 'read' as a business proposition with a series of impacts. Wider questions of power and identity need to be articulated, investigated and answered. The making and consuming of tourism takes place within a complex social milieu, with competing actors drawing into the 'product' peoples' history, culture and lifestyles. Culture and people thus become part of the tourism product. The implications are not fully understood, though the literature ranges the arguments along a continuum with culture on the one hand being described as vulnerable and fixed, waiting to be 'impacted' by tourism (from earlier, more naïve times, see Greenwood 1977, Farrel 1974, Turner and Ash, 1975 and more recently Boissevain 1996, Wyllie 2000), while on the other hand it has been seen as vibrant and perfectly well capable of dealing with whatever changes globalization and modernity are likely to throw at it (Wood, 1993, Franklin 2004).

Social identity has captured the imagination of mainstream sociologists for some decades and they generally hold that individuals conceptualise self and Other at the level of both the individual and wider society. Given that a) mobility is central to tourism and b) social identity in the form of culture is an essential part of many tourism products, the present collection of essays will help problematise tourism by casting light on the relationships between how identity is configured in a variety of circumstances and how such configurations are framed by Orientalism, post-colonialism and commercialism. The consequences of these multiple configurations are significant ranging from outright hostility towards tourism to using it as a way to reinvent or at least reinvigorate declining cultural values and components -especially in a globalising world. Our position is that a social identity perspective on tourism helps provide a platform for a more nuanced understanding of nationalism, self vs. Other, and tourism in a fragmenting yet paradoxically homogenising world.

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Annual review of activities 2005

Peter M Burns
University of Brighton, United Kingdom
P.M.Burns@bton.ac.uk

Social Identity
The tourism and social identities group have been discussing a range of issues that came up from the conference at Eastbourne last year. We all agreed that at first glance, the notion of 'social identity' is an easy concept to understand. Leaving aside for the moment the idea that our movements in and out of various groups might be quite fluid, according to will and situations, it can mean simply that we belong to a group from which we draw a sense of 'who we are': our identity. The corollary is that we also derive this group identity by comparisons with those not in our group, but who belong to other groups: the so-called 'out-groups' interrogated by Henri Tajfel and John Turner (1986) in their work on inter-group discrimination. Tajfel and Turner were interested in a range of interconnected aspects of behavioural psychology that centred on how individuals identified with social groupings, how loyalty to that group is expressed by aggression to out-groups and so on. In a sense, the system can be summarised as 'us' versus 'them' or 'self' versus 'Other' (Said 1974) and in more recent times Roger Scruton's 'The West and the Rest' (2002). Underpinning Tajfel and Turner's work is that of 'social comparison' (Festinger 1954) in which we judge our sense of worthwhileness (positive self-perception) by comparing ourselves against others. Examples to illustrate these points can come from almost any direction. At the English seaside resorts of Clacton, Brighton, Hastings and Margate public disorder in the form of riots broke out in the summers of 1964 and 1965 between two different social groups of youths with diametrically opposed attitudes towards dress, music and lifestyles: Mods and Rockers. In that case trouble flared up, probably encouraged by the sensation seeking print media, into scuffles and broken shop windows and not much more. However, it caused something of a moral panic and suddenly these groups of youths were seen as representing a disobedient and dark side of society: unruly youths who had never had the discipline of military service or the hardships of war that their parents and previous generations had endured. It was over in a flash and was simply an illustration of inter-generational misunderstanding.

However, the same cannot be said of a parallel phenomenon which has lasted much longer and which has been the subject/ object of sustained study: football hooligans. Here, group identity, rigidly enforced by extremes of loyalty towards each other and their club, modes of dress and attitudes towards out-groups (sometimes underpinned by right-wing fascist political ideology) has led to serious and violent confrontation across national borders. The football example is useful because it introduces the idea of national identity into the discussion. Where national borders are disputed, shows of nationalism and national identity veer towards the extreme. Examples can be seen in Northern Ireland, Basque regions of Spain, the deconstructed former Yugoslavia and so on. In the Kashmir region of South Asia, on the Wagah border between India and Pakistan, highly ritualised military ceremonies take place each sunset as the border is closed for the night. The aggressive performance, which includes exaggerated marching, eyeball staring and barking of orders provides an extraordinary visual manifestation of the troubles in that region and seems somehow to act as a surrogate battle egged on by enthusiastic crowds including tourists. The irony is that the whole ceremony, 'Beating the Retreat' has its roots in the Colonial era and British army occupation.

These proxy battles draw us through the paradoxes of social identity vs. national identity and into ethnocentrism, a concept that frames the debate about ethnicity, inter-ethnic relations, and similar social issues. The most common use of the term is as a descriptor for 'thinking your own group's ways as being superior to others' and 'judging other groups as inferior to your own'. The difficulty of course is that ethnocentrism seems to be a common trait, almost nature, amongst most peoples of the world. It does not take much imagination to see the Greeks or Southern Italians smiling at a British academic's obsession with timekeeping at a conference. Or that same British academic feeling completely out of character when being invited out for an evening meal at 10pm. These are light-hearted feelings of difference and mild superiority. But of course things can become more serious when groups believe that they are morally or intellectually superior: therein lies the roots of racism and inter-group violence.

With growing sophistication in market segmentation and the rise of both consumerism and green awareness, there is recognition that tourists themselves are not a particularly homogeneous group and may drift in and out of various touristic social identities (one time at play, another as serious sightseer, clubber etc.) during the course of their vacation.

The complexity of tourism's social and economic dynamic relationship with the host destination, both as performance and impact, means that it should not be perceived as an integrated, harmonious and cohesive 'whole.' Understanding the cultural systems and structures that make meaning between visitors and the visited possible is important for at least three reasons. First, culture (especially culture that is understood to be unique or unusual by actors including marketing specialists and planners) can be seen as a commercial resource, an attraction. Second, and arising from this is the idea that an understanding of the complexities and integrity of social identities might help deflect or ameliorate simplistic images of a host culture occurring through the act of receiving tourists. Finally, Tourism literature rarely acknowledges the world as a system of relations wherein the properties of a 'thing' (in this case, culture) derives meaning from its internal and external relations.

These three items are reflected in Wood's (1993) finely tuned perspective on the issue of tourism, identity and impacts. In discussing tourist and development discourses, his analysis of culture and tourism relies on identifying and understanding systems. He argues that 'The central questions to be asked are about process, and about the complex ways tourism enters and becomes part of an already on-going process of symbolic meaning and appropriation' (Wood, 1993:66).

Insofar as looking for an analytical tool for tourism, Wood's 'process' and 'systems' discussed by Burns (1999a) are synonymous. While Wood (1993) gives a generalised account of cultural impact systems, Greenwood (1989) offers a more specific sense of the cultural problematic encountered by those who study tourism:

  Logically, anything that is for sale must have been produced by combining the factors of production (land, labor, or capital [and enterprise?]). This offers no problem when the subject is razor blades, transistor radios, or hotel accommodations. It is not so clear when the buyers are attracted to a place by some feature of local culture, such as an exotic festival (Greenwood 1989:172).

Underpinning Greenwood's insights on local culture is the notion that place and space are inexorable elements of culture, and thus identity, that cannot be separated from the local environment where it develops (though this local environment will have global perspectives). If Greenwood's central concern, the commoditisation of culture for tourism, is to be addressed then a deeper analysis becomes essential. Proponents of 'Tourism FirstX (cf. Burns, 1999b) tend to see culture from a supply-side point of view framed by the notion of social identity as an attraction. Thus while attractions may vary (an obvious point) for many destinations cultural elements, including social identities, will almost certainly be included as part of the 'product mix' (Ritchie and Zins, 1978:257). The extent to which these components of culture are adapted by the local population and offered to tourists for consumption is likely to be framed by at least two factors. First, the relative difference and thus the relative novelty between cultural components of the visitors and the visited, and secondly, by the type and number of visitors.

Conclusion

The matters raised above, in-groups and out-groups, social identity, nationalism, ethnocentrism, postmodernism, culture etc. have great resonance for ATLAS members and their research on both sides of the 'host' - 'guest' equation.

That tourism is a profoundly important economic sector for most countries and regions of the world is widely accepted even if some of the detail remains controversial (how readily we accept that it is the world's largest industry, or that it accounts for ten per cent of the global job market!). However, as tourism matures as a subject, the theories underpinning it necessarily need to be more sophisticated; tourism cannot be simply 'read' as a business proposition with a series of impacts. Wider questions of power and identity need to be articulated, investigated and answered. The making and consuming of tourism takes place within a complex social milieu, with competing actors drawing into the 'product' peoples' history, culture and lifestyles. Culture and people thus become part of the tourism product. The implications are not fully understood, though the literature ranges the arguments along a continuum with culture on the one hand being described as vulnerable and fixed, waiting to be 'impacted' by tourism (Turner and Ash, 1975), while on the other hand it has been seen as vibrant and perfectly well capable of dealing with whatever changes globalization and modernity are likely to throw at it. The answers of course are far more nuanced than each end the spectrum can provide and are likely to focus around ideas of social identities.

References

Burns, P. (1999a) An Introduction to Tourism and Anthropology. London: Routledge
Burns, P. (1999b) Paradoxes in Planning Tourism Elitism or Brutalism? Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 26, no.2 pp.329-348
Festinger, L. (1954) A theory of social comparison processes, Human Relations 7, 117-40
Greenwood, D. (1989) 'Culture by the Pound: An Anthropological Perspective on Tourism as Cultural Commoditization' (in) Smith, V. (1989) Hosts and Guests: the Anthropology of Tourism (2nd edition), Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Ritchie, J. and Zins, M. (1978) Culture as Determinant of the Attractiveness of a Tourism Region Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 252-267
Said, E.W. (1974) Arab and Jew: Each is the Other. The Journal of Palestine Studies, no. 10
Scruton, R. (2002) The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat. London: Continuum
Tajfel, H. and Turner, J. C. (1986). The Social Identity Theory of Inter-group Behavior. (in) Worchel, S. and Austin, W.G. (eds.), Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Chicago: Nelson-Hall
Turner, L. and Ash, J. (1975) The Golden Hordes: International Tourism and the Pleasure Periphery. London: Routledge
Wood, R. (1993) "Tourism, Culture and the Sociology of Development' (in) Hitchcock, M. et al. (eds) (1993) Tourism in South East Asia. London: Routledge

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Annual review of activities 2004

Theoretical framework for the group:

The big debates undertaken by major tourism institutions generally seem to have little space allocated to how the global framework of tourism reshapes social and cultural identities at a local level. Local identities, especially of indigenous peoples and minorities, are seen as part of the tourist product and thus available for consumption. The potentially exploitative nature of tourism may undermine economic justice and contribute to the removal of locally-controlled rates of cultural and identity transformations. On the other hand, it may be argued that tourism can reinvigorate cultural identity through exposure to appreciative audiences thus securing pride and recognition. In addition, tourism is produced and consumed from within complex spatial constructs and geographies that influence how identities are constructed, imagined and experienced. The relationship between identity and tourism is therefore a significant and compelling area for academic debate.

With these thoughts in mind, the inaugural meeting was held in Leeuwarden in 2003 which will focus on social and cultural identities in making and consuming tourism.

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