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Glances on tourists' identities, North and South 
Bertrand Réau (University of Lyon 1)
Xavier Zunigo (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales)
Series D: Mobilities
Start time:
13 April, 2007 at 10:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

Tourism is a polymorphic object which provides the possibility to renew our conception of globalisation, especially with the rise in tourism from Southern countries. This panel seeks to capture tourism through comparative analysis of the practices and identities of tourists from the North and South.

Long Abstract

For anthropologists the study of tourism provides a means of understanding the transformations which accompany globalisation. Tourism not only favours a kind of interconnectedness between people and populations, it is also an important issue from an economic and political point of view. Tourism implies multiple representations of otherness and it questions the different values a society holds. As a polymorphic object, tourism provides us the possibility to renew our conception of globalisation, especially as regards to "traditional" themes such as: identities and cultures, the construction of marketplaces and the crafting of public policies, and North-South relationships.

Historically and economically speaking, the image of the tourist has long been associated with a Westerner who travels to Northern or Southern countries. Yet, recent figures show that Southern countries have started producing tourists as well. What are the consequences of these transformations on the construction of academic research, especially when most researchers (sociologists, anthropologists) are also Westerners? How should we analyze the practices of these new tourists? Do their attitudes and behaviour differ from practices which characterize Western tourists? Rather than referring to any single, formal definition of the activities and profiles of the tourist, this panel seeks to capture tourism through a great diversity of contemporary examples, and through a comparative point of view. The contributions in their entirety, then, are hoped to provide a new multifaceted perspective on tourists' identities, from both the North and the South.

Accepted papers:


Sylvain Pattieu (Université Paris 8)

Paper long abstract:

Tourisme et Travail, a popular tourist organization linked to the CGT (confédération générale du travail, main french alliance), created in 1944, whose main clients are works councils, considers holidays as a means of education and political consciousness for a popular public. The Maghrebi countries constitute before and after the independances, from the 1950's to the 1970's, favored destinations for this organization. Their proximity indeed enables low cost journeys in countries with undeniable touristic qualities. The ways in which these holidays in countries of the South are presented to Tourisme et travail's tourists, of popular origin but from countries of the North, as well as the practices and encounters between the tourists and the autochtones, are revealing of Tourisme et travail's political project and of its ambiguity.

Holidays in Magrheb are indeed presented by Tourisme et travail as an occasion for a political conscience taking. Before the independances, although the journeys are scarce, the aim is to show the wrongdoings of colonial rule. Thereafter, holidays in Maghreb become an occacion for talking up the accomplishments of new independant countries. However, beyond the speech, the maghrebi countries remain an exotic elsewhere. The mental representations largely follow colonial clichés and classic holiday stereotypes, be it through the choice of visits, the descriptions of the autochtones or the iconography used to debrief the journeys.

These representations have effects on the practices. Tourisme et travail hopes to promote tourism based on meetings between the visitors and the autochtones. The speech given is that of an alternative tourism opposing itself to commercial tourism, qualified as superficial. This alternative tourism is based on authenticity, characterized as the discovery of the countries and the peoples through debates, conferences, meetings with inhabitants, trade-unionists. This gap between intentions and practices puts into perspective the originality of Tourisme et travail's holidays. The so-called authenticity often rests in misunderstandings which lead Tourism et travail to construe in friendly terms behaviours that originate from purely commercial relationships. It is so with the practice of haggling. Moreover, Tourisme et travail's activities take place in a context partly determined by the practices of commercial tourism, internalized by some professional autochtones as well as users. Appropriation by the users, as well as by the employees and directors of the centers abroad, local tourist professionals, of Tourisme et travail's speech should thus be questionned, as well as the conflicts that derive from it. The discrepancies and contradictions between representations and practices are significative of a part of the organization's inertness in relation to colonial heritages, although being an organisation that claims to hold a different view on the maghrebi countries. They attest for the pregancy of commercial relationships and of the economic inequality between tourists and autochtones, essential element of analysis for evaluating crossed touristic relationships bewteen countries from the North and the South.


Mathilde Leduc-Grimaldi (Royal Museum for Central Africa)

Paper long abstract:

What does a Western tourist wish to see in Central Africa, and what is showed to African visitors in Europe?

With the scramble for Africa still going on, large scientific and/or military exploration exploratory expeditions took place in Equatorial Africa and triggered an early and sportive kind of tourism. Rich (and sometimes well-known) Westerners traveled in a region encompassed between the Atlantic shore and the Great Lakes, up to Mount Kenya, or "Congo Free State". Alone or with their retinue, male hunters or female travelers journeyed through the region, behaving differently from explorers or missionaries, bringing with them their habits and their need for comfort and/or luxury. Then, they went back home with souvenirs, and images.

At the exact same time, colonial exhibitions organized by western capital cities put "indigenous villages" on show. These included people from those same equatorial African areas. Of course, the colonized on show during those exhibition had to be part of the settings especially mounted in such occasion. But they were also "entertained" during their stay in the metropolises, being toured in the cities, or even taken to Opera Houses. Unfortunately, little is known from the Africans staying in France, Belgium, or Italy directly. But some of the Europeans in charge of their reception there, as well as some local reviews, published useful information on their stay, and their activities.

These two different historical and early experiences are important to understand specificities of the North to South tourism nowadays, as well as how tourists are perceived by Southerners. In some ways, the resulting analysis possibly indicates how early 20th century Western travelers began preconceiving which places they ought to visit and which ones to show to natives.


Xavier Zunigo (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales)

Paper long abstract:

Hundreds of western volunteers work for a few weeks or several months every year, in reception centres for sick, injured or dying people run by the Missionaries of Charity, the religious order founded by Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Simple tasks (cleaning, first aid, etc.) liken this voluntary involvement to amateur humanitarian work, which is particularly well-suited to the aspirations of people lacking the specific skills for more professional activities. The amateur nature of the practice gives this voluntary work an ambiguous quality: it can be viewed as a humanitarian activity or a tourist activity. More precisely, it represents an atypical form of tourism, which could be considered as "humanitarian tourism". In this universe, however, dedicated to the assistance of poor Indian people, the "tourist", whose trip has no other goal than that of a presence in India, remains an illegitimate figure and the attributes associated with "ordinary tourism" (sightseeing, relaxation, spending, etc.) are generally stigmatized. A majority of volunteers do not indeed consider their stay as a holiday trip, even if the exotic framework of voluntary work in the Missionaries of Charity Centres (which radically differs from voluntary practices in the country of origin), is one of the reasons which frequently motivates the trip. Therefore, to understand this specific figure of tourism, we must at the same time explain the ambiguity of the practice and the meaning that the volunteers give to their practice.



Nadège Chabloz (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales)

Paper short abstract:


Paper long abstract:

"Solidarity tourism" promises in particular an "authentic" meeting between tourists and visited villagers. A participating observation in a village of Burkina Faso accommodating French tourists, made it possible to observe and analyze the nature of interactions between tourists and inhabitants and to note that they are largely based on "misunderstanding". The latter which is related to the stereotypes and come mainly from reciprocal ignorance, hide other more delicate misunderstandings created or reinforced by solidarity tourism ideologies and discourses and transmitted by the NGO Tourism & Development association (TDS). This intervention based on notes of ground and interviews shows the illusory meeting caused by the majority of these misunderstandings. Moreover, this "illusion" is built and manipulated by TDS, by villagers and finally by tourists themselves.

E-paper: this Paper will not be presented, but read in advance and discussed