Culture and Society in Tourism Contexts: Volume 17

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(16 chapters)
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This book is the result of my 20 years’ fieldwork on social and cultural processes in tourism environments. It began with the paper I presented to the 2007 annual conference of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth (“Thinking through Tourism” hosted by the London Metropolitan University in England). It grew further during 2008 through the papers presented in the I Simposio Internacional sobre Interculturalidad en el Mediterráneo organized by the Universitas Miguel Hernández of Elche, Spain; the 8 Tagung der Kommission für Tourismusforschung held at the Institut für Volkskunde/Europäische Ethnologie of the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München, Germany; and the “Intercultural mobilities in tourism contexts: migrants, tourists, new residents, and local population” workshop of the 10th Bi-annual Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA), organized by the Oddelek za etnologijo in kulturno antropologijo of the Universa v Ljubljani, Slovenia. Finally, it was shaped during a three-month research at the Leerstoelgroep Sociaal-ruimtelijke Analyse of the Wageningen University and Research centre in 2009. At every occasion, I had the enormous pleasure of meeting and learning from each and all of the contributors of this volume.

Yet, this is not a book on the tourism industry; nor is it on the changes induced by it, or on how it has been analyzed by social science disciplines, but on the social nature of tourism. Together, all the case studies reflect an effort to understand global and mobile dynamics and the production of collective memories and cultural identities in the Mediterranean region through ethnographic examples from different areas (such as Andalusia, Crete, Istria, Costa Blanca, Marseille, Mallorca, Lesvos, and Marrakech). However, this context of global mobilities cannot be understood apart from the constant presence of tourists in the Mediterranean coasts. Tourism has been the driving agent of the essence and orientalizing images of most of Mediterranean territories during the last 100 years (Tzanelli, 2003). Labor immigrants, tourists, and new residents from various nationalities and with different personal motivations converge and share with locals the same locations, and create new places that mushroom all over the territories, be it urbanizations, private beaches, or even detention hotels. Besides, the increasing voting relevance of these new social categories through their participation in local and regional elections is adding value to their role as social agents in the political sphere (Chueca Sancho & Aguelo Navarro, 2009; Janoschka, 2010). The practices and the meanings that give sense to daily life (culture) seem to blur traditional dichotomous notions such as leisure/labor, locals/residents, and nationals/foreigners.

The Mediterranean has long been celebrated for the richness, diversity, and historical depth of its cultural heritage. However, in recent years heritage and heritage practice could be said to have become a new mode of production in the region (Bianchi, 2005). There are a number of reasons for this; one has to do with the stagnation of the Mediterranean's traditional “sun, sea, and sand” tourism. As a result of this tour operators and national governments have started to push the packaging of “culture” and “heritage” for a more diversified “up-market” product to attract higher-spending tourists to the region's cities and rural hinterland. Another factor is the restructuring and liberalization of the regional economy since the closing decades of the 20th century. There has seen a shift from agriculture to services as the dominant economic sector in this region and the concomitant discovery of culture has become an economic asset for investors seeking an outlet for global capital flows (Bianchi, 2005; Daher, 2007; Nogués-Pedregal, 2002). The European Union (EU) has had an important role to play in these processes, both in driving the region's neoliberal market reforms, and in promoting the establishment of its cultural heritage economy. Cultural heritage has become a priority area in EU Mediterranean policy, with millions of euros earmarked for heritage related projects. This takes the form both of loans to private investors from the European Development Bank, and of grants for public sector cultural heritage initiatives, for example, through its Euromed Heritage programs, the fourth phase of which is underway at the time of writing (Bianchi, 2005; Euromed Heritage, n.d.).

International tourists traveling the eastern Adriatic are sometimes perplexed when some guides describe a Venetian bell tower, a Byzantine church, or Roman ruins as solely Croatian or Slovenian cultural heritage. If the same guides would then reveal that Marco Polo should be spelled Marko Polo for his Croatian origins, their perplexities would probably grow stronger. Most of the time, the same tourists are unaware that the Austrian Navy kept the codes and the tradition of the Serenissima Republic of Venice. Actually, until the Empire split in 1867, it was named Österreich-Venizianische Marine (Austro-Venetian Navy). Interestingly, according to the legend, the Austrian Admiral von Tegheltoff (German speaking subject of the Empire, born in the Alpine town of Maribor-Marburg, currently in Slovenia) after the famous victory in the battle of Lissa in 1866 hailed “Viva San Marco!” The Austrian victory against the fleet of the Kingdom of Italy was surprising and it has become a legendary one both in a good and bad sense. Accordingly, it has been later romanticized in different ways and strategically imbued with moral values by diverse actors. For instance, the journal of Admiral Wilhelm von Tegheltoff reports the famous sentence: “Iron men with wooden ships defeated wooden men with iron ships.” So, Tegheltoff stressed the virtues of the imperial subjects vis-à-vis the lack of moral strength of the opponents. As a matter of fact, the kingdom of Italy's fleet was stronger in numbers and technologically more advanced, but less organized and riddled with conflicts among the admirals. Quite differently, hundred years later, one of the most prominent journalists and writers from the Italian region of Veneto, Guido Piovene, said that: “the battle of Lissa has been the last great victory of the Venetian fleet.” The reason for such statement is that the mariners boarded in the Austro-Venetian fleet were all from former Venetian lands, such as Veneto, Istria and Dalmatia. Therefore, from this standpoint, the battle of Lissa is a matter of an “Italian” dispute between different maritime traditions, namely the Adriatic one of Venice and the antagonist Genoese or Neapolitan. Conversely, in Croatia and Slovenia, there is usually a different version of the story. The battle of Lissa is seen as a victory of a Croatian-Slavic navy over the Italians. Particularly, the battle of Vis (Lissa) is usually referred to as part of Croatian national history and it is a crucial step to legitimize the Croatian identity on the Adriatic Sea, because many of the sailors were ethnically Croats.

Following the adage that “an image is worth ten thousands words,” this chapter will use ethnographic pictures to illustrate two main ideas. First, tourism should be analyzed as one of the names of power. It is so because tourism fractures the continuum of reality differentiating the elements; it constantly names and arranges them into cultural categories. It also channels the relations among those elements and engenders a distinctive time-space binomial (Bakhtin, 1937) that renders these relations meaningful to people. Tourism gives a peculiar sense to the social life of groups in destinations and, consequently, orientates their daily life practices. The second idea is that tourism is probably the most sophisticated elaboration of capitalism. It is a new historical mode of managing reality. It contributes to perpetuate the center–periphery exploitation system and makes feasible the conversion of any place into a desirable destination. It not only provides with the necessary materiality of transport, room and board, and entertainment for customers, but it also commercializes the intangible and produces new meanings. Thus, to study tourism implies to analyze that complex set of sociotechnical practices and devices that, linking the desirable and the feasible, enable certain social groups to spend their leisure time away from their quotidian, including what they do in those places and the social processes induced at their destinations.

Marrakech is today the most important tourist destination in Morocco. Marrakech, however, is not only a key reference point for mass international tourism, but also the preferred choice for those hunting for an “authentic” experience in this North African country. The “Red City” is indeed often presented in literature and advertising alike as a place out of modern time where the real “soul” of Morocco can be found and unveiled (Minca, 2006). This chapter investigates how this “soul” was established—and is now, in Marrakech, constantly reenacted—through layers of colonial and postcolonial interactions between Europe and Morocco.

The Spanish region commercially branded as Costa Blanca has long been a popular destination for millions of holidaymakers from both northern Europe and Spain itself (Gaviria Labarta, 1974; Moreno Garrido, 2007). However, from the 1960s onward, these Mediterranean shores have also attracted thousands of people from northern Europe for other purposes, some as more or less permanent residents, and others as seasonal peripatetic visitors, traveling back and forth between their first, second or third homes (Aledo, 2008). In many ways, the increase in second home visits and long-term stays in areas such as Mediterranean Spain parallels well-known developments of seasonal and full-time retirement and other migration in North America to what has been termed the Sunbelt states (Mings & McHugh, 1995). The situation in Europe, however, is more complex, due, for instance, to the crossing of national borders, a variety of spoken languages, and possibly also for greater cultural differences. Certain parts of such flows are related to perceptions of diminishing distances and to the progress of internationalization processes in societies in general, where tourism and other long-distance mobilities are not only an outcome, but also a crucial catalyst.

When I met Yorgos for the first time I was spending some time as a tourist in a small village in Southern Crete, Greece, which I later called Pousos. This was after several returns as a traveling anthropologist and after the place had become my primary field site for studying the transnational and turbulent social and cultural relations created by both tourism and migration in the Greek-Mediterranean border zones of the European Union (EU) (Römhild, 2002, 2008, 2009, 2010). At that time, in the late 1990s, Yorgos was running a tavern right across the small town square and opposite the small complex of restored stone houses in which my family and I had rented an apartment for our stay. He shared the work with Amie, his girlfriend, who served the meals and chatted with the guests while Yorgos would spend much time in the kitchen.

The Greek Aegean islands of Crete and Lesvos are widely known as prime destinations where tourists come to enjoy the sea, sand, and sun. Yet as geopolitical borderlands of not just Greece but the European Union (EU), they are also crucial points of destination and arrival for both economic and asylum-related migrations. Just as Greece has commanded the spotlight in anxieties and debates regarding the European market (as of 2012), these islands at Europe's periphery are at the center of contestations over European sovereignty, territory, and belonging. Demarcating not just countries but continents and vastly asymmetrical zones of economic development (Lauth Bacas, 2005), the Aegean island borders disrupt also the migratory activities of persons who seek to cross these boundaries.

“…if these practices are described properly and accurately, one might understand better how tourism characterizes daily lives of social groups living in host environments and how it offers a distinctive sense of what happens to people, thus comprehending societies and cultures in tourism contexts” (pp. xxvi). This is the last sentence of the introduction to this volume. Linking this statement to the heading of the Conclusion acknowledges that, being one of the most important economic realities in the world and a product of “the industrial structures of the Western world” (Lanquar, 1991, p. 7), tourism is a result of the practices carried out by millions of people moving all over the world spending their incomes to enjoy themselves. Moreover, these processes are either politico-economic and/or ideological in character (Lengkeek & Swain, 2006) and thereof sociocultural.

Antonio Aledo <> is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Alicante (Spain). With Ph.D. in sociology and a master degree in anthropology, he studies relationships among tourism, urbanism, and the environment. He has conducted fieldwork in Brazil and Central America on the development of residential tourism generated by international demand.

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Tourism Social Science Series
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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