This panel aims to understand encounters between tourists and wild animals. We expect that the papers will help to shed light on the rarely researched question of why Western tourists seek to experience otherness in the wilderness and on their fascination with the animals within it.
The history of wild-game watching, especially in Africa, has parallels with colonial travellers. 'Explorers', officers, professional hunters, wealthy travellers and later mass tourists all had contact with wild animals, and connecting to the local wildlife was always important in travel accounts. Travelogues, popular hunting stories and tourist brochures have always dealt with the human-animal relationship, either implicitly or explicitly. Therefore the question unavoidably emerges: what is the seductive force of wild animals for Western travellers in non Western countries? How does this image fit into the wider semiotic frame of postmodern tourist attractions?
We expect that anthropological case studies will provide insight into how wild animals encapsulate the wilderness in many tourists' imaginations. At the moment, the majority of wild game-watching tours take place in the African continent; however, we are happy to receive papers from non-African fieldwork scholars. Possible topics are: the history of recent wild game watching; the structure and semiotics of the encounters between tourists and wild animals; how wild game play the same role in tourism encounters as other spectacles such as buildings, festivals, other objects or people; how tourists 'capture' animals with their camera; how tourists narrate their ideas about wild animals; why tourists are fascinated by wild animals; and what is the tourists' perception of risk on safari.
Mark Haywood (University of Cumbria)