Call for Papers: Tourism belongs to whom? Exploring tourism in theory and practice. International Conference University of Palermo, June 17-18, 2010

Call for papers

Tourism belongs to whom?

Exploring tourism in theory and practice

International Conference

University of Palermo, June 17-18, 2010

Deadline for receiving abstracts: April 30, 2010

Rather than see tourism as a marginal phenomenon, during this conference we intend to examine tourism as a privileged site from which to reflect on the contemporary world, on complex phenomena such as globalization and mobility, and on the foundations of socio-cultural theories. If thought of as a set of practices configuring human forms of knowledge, tourism is the concern of disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, semiotics, geography, history, and so on. What are the viewpoints applied by these disciplines? What methodology do they use to understand tourism? With statistic or economic elements alone not allowing us to seize the symbolic order lying behind tourism, what are the most effective theoretical tools to study tourism? Furthermore, can travel and displacement contribute today to renew some theoretical models of the social sciences? Does tourism need to overcome the rigid disciplinary compartmentalization of the social sciences? Or, on the contrary, does the separation of knowledge into several and discrete disciplines help us to better understand tourism? If, as a matter of fact, tourism belongs to tourists and to those who practice it, scholars have the duty to understand what meanings these practices take on and what theoretical tools are able to translate these implicit practices into explicit knowledge. As an example, we propose some general axes that we intend to explore with the participants:

I. The concepts of the social sciences and tourism

This section has the function of offering a general epistemological frame inside which to situate concepts, theories and practices useful to think the contemporary world and the notions of tourist and traveler. Among others, the phenomenon of tourism brings to light an opposition, often latent, between what is considered to be the exotic (and the extraordinary) and what is considered to be daily life (and the ordinary). Nowadays, is this opposition still relevant? Can we do a non-exotic anthropology combining the ordinary and the extraordinary? What do we mean by ordinary and extraordinary? And what differences, if there are any, define the range of action of anthropology and sociology in the field of tourism? How do the instruments of analysis of single disciplines carve into parts the knowledge of the social sciences?

II. The ethnographies of tourism

In this section, we will investigate the ethnographies of tourism and we will concentrate on some central questions in the contemporary world such as travel and textualisation, inter-individual interaction and its meaning, interpretation and codification of cultures, the (non)places of the contemporary world and the notion of identity, the construction of otherness and the native, globalization and the processes of migration, etc. In addition, specific reflection could be devoted to the relation between the experience lived by the tourist and its resulting discursive and narrative shaping. In this case, emotions often have a central role whose range one can explore theoretically in accordance with (or not) some tendencies in modern social sciences.

III. The tourist as a figure of translation and mediation

A conspicuous part of the research could concern the tourist as a mediator of cultures and as a social figure: threshold, man, native of one’s own culture, stranger, migrant, theorist, common person, traveler, etc. One could try to answer the following questions: what forms of mediation does a tourist establish with his/her Other? What kind of visual and written texts situate action? What spatial forms impose themselves as constrained or free paths of tourism? This section can be considered as a reflection on the more specific concept of inter-individual and intertextual mediation starting from the figure of the tourist and the tourist’s activity of cultural translator.

IV. The practices and knowledge of the tourist

In the past, scholars have often laid the accent on the couple guests/hosts and on the change resulting from the encounter between tourists and natives. Without necessarily neglecting these general categories, we intend to focus more on the tourist as a complex figure who resorts to some preliminary competences during his/her travel, then realizes them in the process of traveling, and transforms them following interaction with Others. Some questions arising from this reflection could be: what does a tourist do? How are his/her competences configured? What forms of particular learning do his/her competences demand? What meaning do they take on?

V. The geographies of tourism and culture

Tourism often attracts the interest of scholars because of the complex figure of the tourist and the multiple forms of knowledge characterizing him/her. A symmetrical question concerns the geographies of tourism and their related spaces. In this perspective, some fundamental questions could be: what values do territories convey potentially and effectively? How are sites shaped by tourist practices? How to enhance the value of tourist spaces in accordance with the system of culture? What typologies of space are better in tune with the different forms of tourism? By which means can tourism contribute to the promotion of the development of a territory? Through which mechanisms does tourism reinterpret itself in the 21st century?

These are only some examples of the different axes that could be taken into account by participants. Even if outlined here in separate sections, we invite participants to let perspectives and methodologies interact freely with the theoretical tools they consider most appropriate to express their own point of view. Besides an anthropology of tourism (and of the present time, etc.), we invite participants to use the models belonging to sociology, geography, linguistics, textual and cultural semiotics.


Dipartimento di Beni Culturali, Storico-Archeologici, Socio-Antropologici e Geografici

University of Palermo

Viale delle Scienze, 90128, Palermo, Italy

Send proposals to:

Stefano Montes (

Practical Information:

Deadline for submitting abstracts: April 30, 2010.

Abstract: 250-300 words.

Working languages of the conference: Italian, English and French.

Communications: 30 minutes.

Participation is free.

Travel costs, accommodation expenses and meals are covered by participants or their institutions.

A book publication is planned.

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