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Ways of seeing, ways of being: spectatorship and participation through tourism 
Convenor:
Felicia Hughes-Freeland (SOAS)
Stream:
Series C: Identity, memory, imagination
Location:
TM144
Start time:
11 April, 2007 at 16:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:
1

Short Abstract:

This panel will explore vision and visuality in the tourist experience. It will consider whether models of participation and embodied vision are more appropriate than purely visual ones for explaining existing and emergent patterns of touristic activities.

Long Abstract

This panel invites analytical papers or practice-based work which reflect on vision and visuality in the tourist experience. We will explore ways of seeing in different tourist situations and contexts, and consider whether visuality is the constitutive foundation 'being a tourist'. Dance scholars have suggested that tourists have tended to respond to the physical presence of others visually, often through attending spectacular events. It is important to recognise the role of the visual in shaping impressions although it produces stereotyping, but it is also important to move beyond knowledge based on the gaze, and for tourists to engage in a more physical and participatory manner. In this way relations of exchange can be transacted between hosts and guests to transcend commodification and stereotypes, making the transaction a learning experience for all parties concerned.

This gives rise to the following questions. Is there a way of seeing particular to tourist experiences? Does seeing necessarily promote stereotypes and confirm preconceptions? Is a participatory model preferable to a visual one? Is there a way to relate seeing and participating as complementary instead of oppositional? What model of embodied seeing might be appropriate for explaining existing patters of tourism, and for thinking about emergent and future activities?

Accepted papers:

Author:

Matei Candea (University of Cambridge)

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on an ethnographic exploration of divergent visual engagements with forest fires in a Corsican village. For 'locals', watching and mapping the spread of a fire on the opposite hillside from the village square is a complex practice which brings to bear a host of emotional and intellectual connections to place, people and history - it is also a shared practice of crisis management, in which generational and identity issues are worked out. Taken together, these features turn fires into a moment when the presence of the tourist as 'spectator' becomes deeply problematic and non-negotiable. Around this ethnographic situation, the paper suggests ways in which ostensibly essentialist and categorical identity conflicts can emerge out of a complex interaction between fluid networks and critical events.

Author:

Kenneth Little (York University)

Paper long abstract:

There is a lot more to the tourist encounter with local Belizians than meets the eye. On March 9, 2004 a "foreign" yacht mysteriously anchored off of Placencia Point, Belize. Inexplicably, it left four days later. No one ever figured out whose boat it was or what it was doing in Placencia. This paper explores how the "mystery boat" served to focus anxieties and wild speculations about tourist encounters. These were evident in the excessive exchange of conspiracy stories about US spies, drug dealers, strange tourist, crazy locals, and corruption, a flow of narrative that conjured a nervous dread that agitated the smooth, sun-drenched visual images of the place. The boat was an arresting image and I track the troubling state of suspense and suspension that haunted the place and its people and that lingered as a troubled impulse that tried to "make sense" of things while the boat was present. More generally this paper tracks the productive space of an encounter that is fashioned between locals and tourists, where images of a beach paradise rub up against a disrupting picture of a local world "gone wild" for tourists. What happens when the fragile architectures of desire and dreamworld are bombarded with testimonies of mystery and haunting? By examining these moments of arrest and encounter, the paper gauges the impacts of new "signs of life" that are based on processes of visual embodiment that conjure rogue vitalities in bodily agitations, free-floating affects, and sites of collective excitations as emergent forces in this new state of emergency taking shape as neo-liberal exception, on the margins of global empire in Belize.

Author:

Felicia Hughes-Freeland (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

Dance is often used as a spectacle for tourists because it is accessible on an immediately visual level. This paper examines the development of embodied participation in dance tourism, and the implications this has for cross-cultural relationships in the immediate and longer term.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will consider the changing contexts, audiences, and students of dance. When dance forms lose their traditional patrons and venues, performers trained in these forms have to adapt in different ways to new cultural and political conditions. Examples will be drawn from performer experiences in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia and Laos, as they adapt to international audiences at different sorts of venue at home and abroad. The paper will also address the trend for outsiders to a tradition to actively experience 'other' forms of dance, and ask whether this particular form of dance phenomenology contributes to interculturalism in performance.

E

Author:

Alexandra Wood (Glasgow University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores embodiment and scuba diving tourism in Thailand.

Paper long abstract:

The island of Koh Tao, in the gulf of Thailand, boasts a rapidly developing tourism industry centralised around the activity of scuba diving. Scuba diving is prominent and was the basis for the formation and continual negotiation of all economic, political and social structures on the island; yet these are all based around the human experiences underwater. In an analysis of the participatory activity of scuba diving underwater, using literature of tourism, embodiment and ritual, I show how purely visual models only are inadequate for explaining this particular tourist activity, and perhaps most others. Not only are 'seeing' and 'participating' in scuba diving complimentary, rather than oppositional, but further I would argue that dividing the experiences of scuba diving into distinct, sensory based, analytical categories can only be made in hindsight when back on land. Whilst underwater, scuba diving as an activity is but one embodied experience, invoking an overlapping and blending of all bodily senses in response to the equally sensate non-human world into which divers submerge.

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