Engaging ethnography in tourist research
Julia Harrison (Trent University)
Susan Frohlick (University of British Columbia)
Series A: Tourism as ethnographic field
Start time:
11 April, 2007 at 11:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel addresses challenges of ethnographic methodology, in which prolonged interaction is paramount, with highly mobile tourists. Papers examine the relationship between method and object, and suggest how engaging ethnography in tourist studies calls into question ethnographic conventions.

Long abstract:

For quite some time, anthropologists have struggled to find research strategies for studying tourists and tourism. Ethnographic methodology that relies on prolonged interaction with research participants can be problematic. How does a researcher sustain such contact with highly mobile tourists? But other problems arise as well. All too often, for example, interpretive analyses of tourism media do not take into account how tourists, locals, and others actually use the materials, or ignore the affective outcomes of tourist discourses. Nor do they acknowledge the complexities of engaging meaningfully with subjects who are both transient and reticent to be distracted from their pursuit of pleasure. Ethnographic methodology demands that the researcher make sense of these realities through painstaking attention to social and cultural context that is always complex and messy. Quick in and out won't suffice, yet nor will standard ethnographic practice. Fresh approaches must be devised. Some of the questions that might be addressed include: How does a researcher position themselves as being something other than a tourist? Does multi-sited ethnography offer a useful model here? Do the research strategies and analytical frameworks of visual anthropology offer particular guidance? Does the earnestness of ethnography need modification to fully capture the experience of 'fun' and 'leisure'? Does the experiential moment of touristic encounter provide the richest ethnographic context for research? Such questions invite a critical examination of the relationship between method and object, and suggest that engaging ethnography in tourist studies calls into question conventions regarding both ethnography and tourism.