Accepted Paper:

Traveling in Binaries and Cycles: Valene Smith's and Nelson Graburn's Contributions from Tourism to Anthropology   


Margaret Swain (University of California, Davis)

Paper short abstract:

In the 1970s Smith and Graburn helped conjure up the anthropology of tourism, drawing from shared interests to develop distinct empirical and theoretical models of binaries and cycles. They continue to challenge anthropologists to travel with them to new frontiers of inquiry.

Paper long abstract:

Arguably the1970's California Dreamin' Mamma & Papa of the Anthropology of Tourism, Valene Smith and Nelson Graburn helped conjured up the field. They reinvented classic anthropological theory on exchange, rites of passage, and cultural diversity: applying these ideas to something new- global mass tourism. Drawing from their enduring interest as ethnographers of Iniut peoples and tourism in the Arctic, Smith focused on costs and benefits to local hosts for tourist guests, while Graburn engaged the cultural codes and changing aesthetics of indigenous tourist arts producers in the "fourth-world" Their research on tourists also led Smith to develop typologies in the context of rapid global change, while Graburn theorized motivations as ritualized experiences.

Choosing from their many contributions, I look at Smith's "Hosts and Guests" and Graburn's "Sacred Journey" paradigms, asking why or why not these constructs have traveled beyond Tourism Studies, what is the importance of this work to Anthropology in general, and is it recognized? Delving into critiques over 40 years, Graburn's and Smith's subsequent scholarship, and contemporary uses, we can see that their ideas of binaries and cycles have endured, advancing foundational Maussian concepts that embrace evolving global issues including mobilities, embodiment, performance, cosmopolitanism and indigenity. While these themes resonate strongly, tourism as a source of new thinking is Anthropology is barely legitimized after decades of squeamish postcolonial discomfort around the thin line sometimes between tourists and anthropologists. Smith and Graburn, with their colleagues, show the way.

Panel G42
Tourism and anthropological theory and practice (IUAES Commission on the Anthropology of Tourism)