The Otherness in Tourism – the art of seduction
There are books readers are impatiently waiting for. There are book series, which – readers know – are innovative, inspiring and always at the defined level of quality. The connection of these two aspects usually guarantees a fine reading. This is the case of ‘Tourism and the Power of Otherness: Seductions of Difference’ edited by David Picard and Michael A. Di Giovine. Two promissory scholars decided to publish a collection of papers in a well-known and esteemed series “Tourism and Cultural Change” in Channel View Publications. Of course, it does not make a success at once, but it enforces us to draw our attention into it. The more that editors chose a really appealing title. Tourism + Power + Otherness = Seduction… of the reader.
The analysis of the relationships between Self-Other is much older than tourism studies, therefore the volume is deep-rooted in strong intellectual traditions (which is proved by the outstanding introduction written by the editors). The philosophical, religious and historical background, to which the authors of the introduction refer, shows how universal the concept of Self-Other is. However, the discussion doesn’t confine to abstract terms only. What is innovative in the adopted perspective is the fact that Self and Otherness may still become a practical tool in better understanding of the very specific problems of modernity, especially in the context of tourism. Since Self and Other always reveal in a connection, the ‘contact zones’ of tourism acquire a huge potential to investigate different phenomena.
The volume is represented by quite diversified articles divided into three parts. The first, “Travels into Past Golden Age’, exemplifies the possibilities of utilizing the past, which serves as a frame for creating image and identity (Camila de Marmol, Chapter 2; Paula Mota Santos, Chapter 3) or which reveals its complexity in the interpretation of the different stakeholders (Verschaeve and Wadle, Chapter 4). These case studies substantially confirm the Sharon Macdonald’s (2013) idea that Europe, because of a wide range of forms of ‘historical consciousness, can be perceived as ‘Memorylands’.
The second part, entitled “Tourism and Others in Dialogue”, presents cultural and social tensions in different tourism areas. They are generally the result of the clash of tourists’ imaginaries, tourism industry goals and local people’s activities. Through case studies representing three continents: Asia (Gupta, Chapter 5), Africa (Salazar, Chapter 6) and South America (Sammells, Chapter 7) the reader becomes aware that, paradoxically, very similar factors are shaping the situation in distant places of the world.
The last part, “Travel, Other and Self-Revelation”, concentrates mainly on tourists and their aspirations. Through the contact with nature (Knapp, Wiegand, Chapter 9), with locals (Scheltena, Chapter 8) or by spiritual quests (Ghasarian, Chapter 10) tourists aim to redefine their perception of Self, which can associate with the Marcel’s concept of homo viator. In this case, physical travel underpins the metaphysical journeys through which a human transgresses intellectually and spiritually.
The quality of presented articles varies, some of them are more general, some of them are more equipped with the theoretical back-up, others concentrate more on the autobiographic reflections. This diversity constitutes the strength of the volume. All of the papers, thanks to the accessible language and the vividness of examples, offer a pleasurable reading, which provokes a fresh view into old questions. The introduction evidencing the erudition of its authors plays a particularly important role. The broad perspective of this part of the book will be especially helpful for these scholars who search for the brief but theoretically well-established summary of the state-of-art. However, it seems that the volume, due to its popular and scientific character, addresses a great range of readers: not only scholars and students, but also people who wish to deepen their perception into the processes constituting the modern world. The disconcerting image (by Sara Maia) from the front cover symbolically invites to take up this gauntlet.
These ethnographic case studies demonstrate that Otherness may take different faces. No matter who you are (the host, the guest or the representative of the tourism industry) and where you are (in Europe, in Africa or anywhere else) all of us dance the tricky dance of seduction. The art of seduction assumes relentless change in the roles of power and subjection; furthermore, it is connected with the improvement of one’s attractiveness and using the setting to find a better position. By this dance, under which lies the fascinating relationship between Self and Other, cultural and social orders are in unending motion.
David Picard and Michael A. Di Giovine (eds.) Tourism and the Power of Otherness: Seductions of Difference, Bristol: Channel View, 2014, 195 p.