Is tourism a devil’s bargain? Histories and Cultures of Tourism

Tourist season is underway in the northern hemisphere. Scenic towns are filling with visitors, business owners are crossing fingers in hope of massive earnings, and anxious travelers are Googling what to see, where to stay, and what to eat. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, in 2016 there were 1.2 billion international tourist arrivals. Industry watchers are used to seeing growth; they’ve seen little else since the end of World War II. Projections call for much more.

But there is a cost. The sizzling hot summer of 2017 was notable for many things, one of the more striking being the number of news stories recounting communities pushing back against the very tourists who fuel their economies. The BBC reported Spanish leftists sprawled “tourists go home” on buildings and that locals in Lavertezzo, Switzerland, lamented tourists “turning their idyllic valley into “an open air toilet.” The Scotsman suggested that Edinburgh was “losing its soul” to tourism and The Sun cried “boozy Brits are turning Croatian resorts into holiday hellholes.”

There are many different historical questions packed into these two sides of the same coin.  Why are so many people traveling? What attracts them to some sites/sights and not others? How has tourism shaped the environment? Is tourism truly a devil’s bargain? Can leisure travel really shape identities? And of course, there’s a host of queries about politics and policies too.

Tourism history is a comparatively new field of study, but it has gone from strength-to-strength in the past two decades. Historians have reflected on many of the questions above and they’ve uncovered a host of fascinating and often unexpected answers. For example, during the Interwar governments representing nearly every political ideology utilized tourism to various ends. It made better Nazis, promised healthier Soviet workers, and showcased the value of capitalism even in the face of economic turmoil. After the American Civil War, promotion of leisure travel represented a way of forging something approaching a unified national identity. Citizens were told to “see Europe if you must, but see America first.” The national parks, important signifiers of American identity, were a consequence. Much earlier, in the eighteenth century­—when many historians believe tourism was born—, the agonizing conflict over whether tourists represent a good thing or a bad has its roots. Wealthy young men, later to be known as teenagers, were meant to travel around Europe learning languages and good taste. They were supposed to gain cultural capital and a sense of themselves as members of the elite. Sometimes, as with historian Edward Gibbon, the results were positive. More often, the nascent tourists drank to excess, spent trunks of money, engaged the services of prostitutes, and generally behaved badly. Instead of much improved young adults, parents got back wildly gesticulating youngsters prone to speaking with their hands and using exaggerated foreign accents. It was embarrassing. A hearty ongoing debate about the merits of tourism resulted.

To explore the history of tourism is to study a topic that is itself fascinating but also to find a fruitful way of examining just about any subject from a new angle, while at the same time uncovering unexpected connections and relationships. You would not necessarily think of tourism as an important foundation of postwar youth culture, but that is exactly what a recent book suggests. That many of us enjoy visiting mountains and beaches seems almost human nature, but it is more accurately seen in connection with early tourism. You need to learn to interpret a landscape and the language is historically contingent.

As it stands, we know quite a bit, but there is far more to learn. For this reason, Cornell University Press is launching a new book series—Histories and Cultures of Tourism—and I am thrilled to be its editor. We’re anxious to publish the very best tourism history scholarship, keen to showcase intelligent storytelling. It will be a very exciting trip.

 

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About the author of this blog post: Eric G. E. Zuelow is chair of the Department of History and Philosophy at the University of New England. He is author of A History of Modern Tourism (Palgrave, 2015) and Making Ireland Irish: Tourism and National Identity since the Irish Civil War (Syracuse University Press, 2009). Zuelow is general editor of the Journal of Tourism History and will be editor of the new Cornell University Press book series Histories and Cultures of Tourism.

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Is tourism a devil’s bargain? Histories and Cultures of Tourism

Police/Worlds: Studies in Security, Crime, and Governance

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Indio Police Building (Indio, Calif.), 1958 © J. Paul Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10). Photo by Julius Schulman.

Police/Worlds: Studies in Security, Crime, and Governance is a new series forthcoming from Cornell University Press. It will be edited by anthropologists Ilana Feldman, Will Garriott, Kevin Karpiak, and Sameena Mulla. Download the flyer for more information.

Sage House: We’re very happy to launch the new monograph series, Police/Worlds: Studies in Security, Crime, and Governance here at Cornell University Press.  To begin, tell me about Police/Worlds. What does the title mean? What is the series focus and what makes it different from other series?

Sameena Mulla: We’re glad you asked, because we chose the title Police/Worlds to invite that question. You see two very recognizable terms, “Police,” and “Worlds,” with some punctuation between them; their relationship is not exactly clear, and that’s what we hope to explore in the series. We want to publish books that explore policing in many different contexts. That means not just traditional organizational settings—

Kevin Karpiak: What’s sometimes glossed as “Policing as the men in blue.”

SM: —but also in policing more broadly, as a set of everyday practices. Thinking of the many worlds of policing suggests different geographic, historic, and also cultural contexts.

Will Garriott: For the past few years, a group of us have been working on issues of police and policing in anthropology. For example, the blog Anthropoliteia has been a central place to develop the anthropological focus on policing. And this has put us in conversation with scholars of police in neighboring disciplines. It’s provided us with a particular perspective on issues such as crime, security, and governance. We’ve found this to be a very productive space. We hope the series will reflect this. Continue reading “Police/Worlds: Studies in Security, Crime, and Governance”

Police/Worlds: Studies in Security, Crime, and Governance

Cornell Series on Land: An Interview with Wendy Wolford

Cornell University Press is pleased to introduce a new series, “On Land: New Perspectives in Territory, Development, and Environment,” edited by Wendy Wolford (Cornell University), Nancy Lee Peluso (University of California, Berkeley), and Michael Goldman (University of Minnesota). We recently invited Wendy to sit down with Sage House News to discuss what inspired the editors to embark on this project and to detail their areas of interest.

All three editors, as well as CUP Senior Acquiring Editor Jim Lance, will be available to field inquiries at the American Association of Geographers annual meeting, March 29–April 2, in San Francisco.

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L to R: Series editors Wendy Wolford, Nancy Peluso, Michael Goldman

Sage House: Can you tell us about the manifesto you’ve been working on?

Wendy Wolford: The three coeditors for the series—Nancy, Michael, and I—wanted to write something that would outline in very general terms how we situate the series within a longer tradition of work. We also wanted to delineate some of the areas that we’re most interested in. The three of us are all pretty closely aligned in the way we think of the broader trajectory of work around land—land-related politics, land development studies, political and moral economy—and yet we work in very different areas.

The manifesto is also an attempt to explain why a series on land makes so much sense right now. Not that it’s an ephemeral interest! But in the current moment there is a heightened awareness of the struggle over land resources, urban and rural, even extending to the politics of marine management. Continue reading “Cornell Series on Land: An Interview with Wendy Wolford”

Cornell Series on Land: An Interview with Wendy Wolford