Accepted Paper:

Ethnography of tourism and participant observation: the intimate experience of being one traveller among the others  


Clothilde Sabre (Hokkaido University)

Paper short abstract:

When conducting the multi-sited ethnography of tourism, the intimate connection between imaginary and reality that occurs during the trip for the tourists is an experience that needs to be share and lived by the researcher. The self narrative experience is then included as an ethnographic tool.

Paper long abstract:

Investigating the tourist experience from the travellers' perspective needs to reconsider the ethnographic method: as a globalized phenomenon, tourism is multi-sited and, to comprehend the concrete experience of the stay, the ethnographer performs a deep immersion in different spaces and times. The participant observation can't be reduced to the effective moment of the trip but it has roots before the stay and it continues after it too. The notion of imaginary is at the core of this experience: before visiting their destination, travellers are picturing it, from images and information they have integrated. Once on the tourist site, they are confronting previous imaginary with concrete experience, and, without being familiar with these images, the ethnographer wouldn't be able to reach and share the feelings that give meaning to this moment. Imaginary and emotions are then one of the sites for ethnography.

This presentation is an attempt to outline this model of intimate ethnography. The case study of French fans of manga and anime travelling in Japan will be taken to illustrate the many questions raised by the fieldwork. For fans the trip to Japan was a key moment in their personal life and the ethnographer had to share this feeling, using its own emotion as a tool to perceive and decipher the other tourists' reaction, from a different perspective than just being fan. The self experience of the researcher is then an important ethnographic tool, which can help to understand the role of intimacy and personal feelings into contemporary phenomenon.

Panel P058
Reimagining the self and the field in contemporary ethnography: insights from living and researching within and through borders