Call for papers: Tourist Spaces – Between Practices and Theories – University of Palermo, July 7-8-9, 2011

Call for papers 

Tourist Spaces

Between Practices and Theories

International Conference

University of Palermo, July 7-8-9, 2011

Deadline for receiving abstracts: June 10, 2011

This conference represents the second phase of a joint reflection, conducted by anthropologists, semioticians and geographers, on the issue of tourist theories and practices. During the first conference (Tourism belongs to whom? Exploring tourism in theory and practice), we focused on the disciplinary constitution of tourism itself and on theories and practices characterizing it according to the respective declinations offered by specific disciplines. Along with participants, we intend now, during this second conference, to question the modalities according to which tourist spaces are lived, analyzed and interpreted. In this direction, the interventions not only of anthropologists and geographers, but also of other specialists (semioticians, linguists, sociologists, philosophers, cultural and literary theorists, etc.) are particularly welcome to examine different tourist phenomena (and/or the viewpoints used to approach them) starting from the perspective of space. The fundamental principle upon which we wish to base our interrogation is founded on a precise semio-anthropological conception of space. Besides being an abstract concept, in our perspective space constitutes an active element of cultural modeling: space is not a neutral container within which human actions are accomplished independently from its cultural shaping, but a real and true meaningful feature contributing to structure human actions and give them sense inside a society. If we follow this hypothesis, the reflection on tourist spaces takes on a particularly decisive role for many disciplines and for the definition of culture(s) in a more and more globalized world. If tourism can indeed be seen on the basis of a large dichotomy (extraordinary time vs. ordinary life), it is also true that tourists are more specifically people who define themselves according to a principle of choice, that is in relationship to some spaces they ‘choose’ to live permanently or to visit occasionally and for enjoyment. Travel and permanence in tourist places are usually opposed to dwelling and residence, and this opposition organizes the human actions realized in these spaces, as well as the roles of individuals and the forms of interactions allowed or prohibited. What is the positioning of single tourists very often situated on the threshold of cultural schemes and individual activities? An interdisciplinary reflection and answer can be indicative of the modalities through which humans refer to the world and interact with others. Furthermore, it is not irrelevant to stress here the fact that spatial dimensions of travel are often anticipated by the equally meaningful universe of imagination and dream triggered by movies, television, publicity, literature. Rightly or wrongly, subject to the tyrannical tide of the media or to the freer artistic-literary flow, we are in any case captured by the ‘imaginary of the other’, so often based upon images of spaces intentionally conceived to represent an ‘elsewhere’ built to prompt us to travel. Which role play indeed these images in our lives and in the cultural selection of the principles constituting people’s identity and otherness? Even before ‘being tourists on location’, we are semiotically endowed with an implicit viewpoint concerning these images representing a ‘being elsewhere’ in the world, in a space envisaged for enjoyment and leisure. If, on the one side, it is then necessary to question the genuine anthropological foundations of tourist imaginaries (more specifically, in our case, the ones connected to the spatio-temporal dimension), on the other side, it is also important to analyze, realistically and openly, the ‘forms of otherness’ built on purpose for tourists by tour operators. The aim is not only to see how the relationship space/humans is conceived in economical terms, but also to study the degree by which space, as an ‘object of value’, is provided (or can be provided) with attractiveness. Do we know which elements best represent these values for tourists? Which anthropological features are suitable to capture their dreams and imagination? Which spatial forms impose themselves as compelling or free routes for tourists? How is configured the usage of a site by a tourist? Through which forms can tourism be thought as useful to the promotion of the development of a territory? A tourist territory is different from other territories or imaginaries? The symbolic nature, at times even intentionally built, of a tourist space doesn’t have to make us forget the symmetrical territorial policies concerning local and international development. Which role do management and development policies play for a local territory? To conclude, we can affirm that any space is (or can become) an object of interest for tourists: seaside resorts, holiday villages, rural areas, cities, islands and archipelagos, lived and imagined spaces, deserts and mountains chains, historical centres and peripheries, etc. What also counts is the manner through which questions are faced. For example, what are the theoretical instruments allowing to focus more appropriately on tourist spaces as anthropological and semiotic configurations? Which disciplines are suitable to plan the management and the sustainable development of these spaces? To answer these questions, participants can present their own analyses concerning tourist spaces, freely emphasizing reflections on theoretical principles, on more specific issues, or even crossing theoretical-practical perspectives. To this end, we summarize some hypothetical subjects to be explored, among others, during the conference: tourist spaces as spaces of (inter)action; spaces and nonplaces; tourist spaces and communication/signification; spaces and tourist’s knowledge; tourist rituality and space; tourist space and otherness; tourism and the reinvention of spaces; from tourist spaces to written or visual texts; tourist spaces and nomadism; spaces and tourist attractiveness; new museums and spatial configurations; commercial centres as potential tourist spaces; natural parks as cultural spaces; planning hospitality policies and tourist spaces; tourist spaces and body/emotions; tourism and waiting spaces; new spaces of tourism; quest for authenticity and space; nature and culture in tourist spaces; etc.


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: June 10, 2011.

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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