Recent years have witnessed a seemingly relentless surge in the movement of tourists 'of Asian origin'. Indeed, bodies such as the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), confidently predict that over the coming decades Asia will have the fastest growing population of tourists on the move in the world. Despite such predictions, very little attention has been given to the social, cultural and political implications of Asia's transformation from mere host destination into a region of mobile consumers. Hosted by the Asia Research Institute, on 7 - 9 September 2006 in Singapore, this workshop sets out to address this gap by offering the first sustained examination of tourism in Asia by Asian tourists.
To date the majority of academic studies on tourism have focused on east/west, north/south encounters between westerners, often seen as white, male and travelling alone, and their host destinations. These ideas have been forged through a dialogue with a global tourism industry principally oriented towards the more affluent tourist of post-industrial western societies. The rapid growth of Asians travelling for leisure and recreation today however demands a re-appraisal of how tourism in the region is analysed and understood. Indeed, it appears tourism ‘of Asian origin’ requires an analysis which moves beyond certain themes - such as the traditional & modern, hegemony & resistance, local & global - which have often dominated the tourism literature in recent years.
Ranging from Singapore to Halong Bay, Angkor to Macau, locations are being re-packaged and re-scripted to meet the preferences, desires and aspirations of the Asian tourist. The ongoing rise of tourists ‘of Asian origin’ promises to redefine the political terrains of place, culture and memory, demanding fresh approaches to questions of governance, sovereignty and the ties between traditions, identity and modernity. Tourism is providing Asians with new forms of national and post-national citizenship. Does the consumption of futurity or the pre-modern across multiple places constitute an emergent cosmopolitanism?
Hall & Tucker’s call for a greater understanding of the relationship between tourism and the post-colonial theory is particularly pertinent for Asia today. Critiques of nostalgia or heritage also need to examine how colonial pasts are becoming re-valued and circulated for Asian consumption. Does Asian tourism threaten to inflict further representational violence on the already sensitive and complex issues of memory, identity and the performance of place? Or does it present a new social space for the emergence of previously hidden, counter-narratives? To what degree does Asian tourism challenge the validity and practices of globally roaming organisations like UNESCO, the WTO and ICOMOS, which often deploy Western conceptions of culture and authenticity within frameworks of multi-culturalism and local heterogeneity. It also demands new approaches to understanding how tourism acts as an agent for development or social change. Does tourism of Asian origin offer new opportunities for socio-economic parity within and across communities or will it further promote the already expanding wealth inequalities within the region? What role should the state play in promoting people, places and pasts for touristic consumption?
With so much tourism theory predicated on so many universalisms, there are indications that key threads of the literature are critically challenged by the praxis of Asian tourists. Is a different theoretical vocabulary required to interpret the socio-cultural dynamics arising from their consumption of beaches, nature reserves, religious sites and ethnically diverse destinations? While tourism in Asia by Asian tourists has begun to receive some academic interest in recent years, studies remain isolated and limited in scope. There has yet to be a consolidated, sustained examination of an area that promises to have profound societal implications across the region over the coming decades.
In response, this workshop seeks to move beyond current western-centric orthodoxies of tourism to add fresh approaches for understanding the changing nature of tourism in Asia. We strongly welcome contributions which consider the validity of current tourism theory for understanding contemporary Asia, and where appropriate, offer new conceptual and analytical directions. We are also very interested in receiving abstracts from researchers who might not have worked directly on tourism before but whose research offers insights into the ways in which tourism connects with areas such as gender, social development, migration/diaspora, trans-national capitalism, or popular culture.
Thoroughly interdisciplinary in nature, this workshop promises to explore the broader implications arising from tourism ‘of Asian origin’; and, in so doing, provide rich, and highly innovative, insights into the rapidly changing socio-cultural landscape of contemporary Asia.
Proposed Themes include:
Media, Popular Culture and the Packaging of Place
From Tourism to Migration to Expatriation; Identities on the move
Heritage Politics and ‘Re-Orienting’ the Past
Visions of the Exotic and the lure of Paradise
Tourism and the Urban
The State, Community and Minority; the Role of Tourism for Development
Body Economics; from Health Tourism to Contagious Diseases
Sensing the local; the Spiritual and the Corporeal
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