Tourism Studies Working Group Colloquia 2008-2009 vol:6
TSWG Colloquium location:Berkeley date:14 November 2008
Using international tourism as an analytical and ethnographic entry, this paper explores the intricate ways in which local to global processes intersect, overlap, and clash. Destina-tions worldwide are adapting themselves to the homogenizing standards of global tour-ism while at the same time trying to maintain, or even increase, their local distinctiveness. Central to these deeply intertwined processes are tourism imaginaries, understood as rep-resentational systems that mediate reality and form identities, and their (re)production by local tour guides, key agents in the selling and telling of natural and cultural heritage. Drawing on 25 months of multi-sited and multi-temporal fieldwork in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and Arusha, Tanzania, the presented research addresses the following issues: (1) the representation of peoples and places in globally circulating tourism imaginaries; (2) the formal schooling and informal learning of local tour guides to appropriate images and dis-courses of tourism; (3) the (re)production and contestation of fashionable tourism imagery in guiding narratives and practices; and (4) the ways in which dominant imaginaries and personal imaginations of tourism stakeholders are (dis)connected. The methodology used, labelled as “glocal ethnography”, involves a mixed-methods approach including extensive observation, interviews, questionnaires, and the collection of secondary data. The comparative and discourse-centred analysis of the data reveals how local guides in Yogyakarta and Arusha act as “mechanics of glocalization”, assuring the continued circulation and localization of tourism fantasies, but also using the encounter with foreigners to foment their own imaginations of “paradise on earth” and to accumulate cosmopolitan knowledge. These findings add not only to the current theorizing on tour guiding and tourism, they demonstrate the potential of glocal ethnography as a methodology to move studies of transnational phenomena from mere description or critique to grounded holistic analyses that unravel the complex human mechanisms underlying glocalization. The study’s focus on the human aspects of globalization, on cosmopolitanism and “cosmobility”, and on the role of the imaginary in giving people’s lives meaning, illustrates some creative ways in which anthropologies of mobility can contribute to ongoing theoretical and methodological debates about the local-to-global nexus. The paper ends with a brief presentation of planned research on imaginaries of (cos)mobility in the context of tourism to and immigration from “the South”.