Touring for peace: the role of dual-narrative tours in creating transnational activists

Emily Maureen Schneider (Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA)

International Journal of Tourism Cities

ISSN: 2056-5607

Publication date: 26 June 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Scholarship on the contact hypothesis and peacebuilding suggests that contact with marginalized ethnic and racial groups may reduce prejudice and improve opportunities for conflict resolution. Through a study of dual-narrative tours to Israel/Palestine, the purpose of this paper is to address two areas of the debate surrounding this approach to social change. First, past research on the effectiveness of contact-based tourism as a method to change attitudes is inconclusive. Travel to a foreign country has been shown to both improve and worsen tourists’ perceptions of a host population. Second, few scholars have attempted to link contact-based changes in attitudes to activism.

Design/methodology/approach

Through an analysis of 218 post-tour surveys, this study examines the role of dual-narrative tours in sparking attitude change that may facilitate involvement in peace and justice activism. Surveys were collected from the leading “dual-narrative” tour company in the region, MEJDI. Dual-narrative tours uniquely expose mainstream tourists in Israel/Palestine to Palestinian perspectives that are typically absent from the majority of tours to the region. This case study of dual-narrative tours therefore provides a unique opportunity to address the self-selecting bias, as identified by contact hypothesis and tourism scholars, in order to understand the potential impacts of exposure to marginalized narratives.

Findings

The findings of this study suggest that while these tours tend to engender increased support for Palestinians over Israelis, their most salient function appears to be the cultivation of empathy for “both sides” of the conflict. Similarly, dual-narrative tours often prompt visitors to understand the conflict to be more complex than they previously thought. In terms of activism, tourists tend to prioritize education-based initiatives in their plans for post-tour political engagement. In addition, a large number of participants articulated commitments to support joint Israeli–Palestinian non-governmental organizations and to try to influence US foreign policy to be more equitable.

Originality/value

These findings complicate debates within the scholarship on peacebuilding as well as within movements for social justice in Israel/Palestine. While programs that equate Israeli and Palestinian perspectives are often criticized for reinforcing the status quo, dual-narrative tours appear to facilitate nuance and universalism while also shifting tourists toward greater identification with an oppressed population. Together, these findings shed light on the ability of tourism to facilitate positive attitude change about a previously stigmatized racial/ethnic group, as well as the power of contact and exposure to marginalized narratives to inspire peace and justice activism.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was generously supported by the National Science Foundation as well as the Colorado College Social Science Executive Committee. The authors would like to thank MEJDI, an inspiring ray of hope in this current era, as well as Chaney Skilling, Hailey Corkey, Kyana Bell, Lam Quynh Vo, and Sonya Padden for their contributions to this project.

Citation

Schneider, E. (2019), "Touring for peace: the role of dual-narrative tours in creating transnational activists", International Journal of Tourism Cities, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 200-218. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJTC-12-2017-0092

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Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, International Tourism Studies Association

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