Aitchison, C. (2000) 'Poststructural feminist theories of representing Others: their response to the "crisis" in leisure studies' discourse', in Leisure Studies, vol 19: 127 - 144.
Some theorists have identified a crisis in the theoretical basis of Leisure Studies, arising from the impact of postmodernism, a lack of theoretical development, and a specific failure to engage with post structuralism. This lack of theoretical development affects Tourism too. One issue concerns the relation between Leisure Studies and its contributing parent disciplines, an issue which also concerned various issues of Leisure Studies in the 1980s. The boundaries between Leisure Studies and other disciplines have hardened recently, however, leading to a 'reticence to participate in contemporary cultural debate', in particular (129). Leisure continues to be seen as a separate area.
There have always been differences between UK and North America as well. North American research, expressed in the title of one of their journals Leisure Sciences, has largely drawn from social psychology [eg the work on 'flow'] and has tried to examine and measure the leisure experience and the impact on the individual. UK research has tended to offer sociological analysis of social structures instead, including a functionalist 'normative citizenship paradigm' (quoting Coalter, page 130). Both approaches have marginalised discussion of the broader concept of culture. Both have also systematically demonstrated a 'reluctance to engage with poststructuralist theory' (130). Other social science disciplines have done much more with this engagement, ironically often with leisure or tourism locations as a central site and location for the necessary discussion of 'processes of identity construction, contestation and negotiation' (131).
Feminists have also pursued deconstructionist approaches, especially discussing the 'theorisation of gender, sexuality and corporeality' (131). This sort of feminism can usefully combine with poststructuralism in order to avoid purely theoretical debate. Feminist leisure research has also experienced crisis, however, as liberal and socialist feminism also felt the effect of deconstruction and postmodernism. Such research tended to focus on the public world and lose the important emphasis on the private and personal. Foucault's legacy was also ambiguous. While poststructuralism itself might have embodied a male gaze, its concern 'with diversity and difference' (132) is more promising. Feminist research in leisure has even been able to point to a way forward here, especially since it has always been concerned to be international in scope.
The emphasis has shifted, from patriarchy ('with its emphasis on male control of the structures of society'), to phallocentrism ('male control of language, symbols, definitions, discourses, sexuality, theory and logocentric thinking') (quoting Wearing, page 133). This has enabled analysis of male domination 'through both structures and cultures' (133). Poststructuralism, and Butler's work in particular, has helped criticise dualistic thinking, and to introduce an essential element of 'power, constraint, empowerment and resistance' (133).
Post-structural feminism draws from Derrida, Foucault and Lacan, and has been articulated by Cixous, Kristeva and Irigaray. It has attacked the notion of single theories of women's position; of one 'single truth or logical reason' (134), both central to logocentrism. There is a danger that the systematic exercise of power and domination will be sidelined by this specificity and emphasis on context. Actor network theory can help to bring structure back in, however, via the study of 'intricate webs of material and discursive power relations' (134). This is preferred to approaches such as Giddens on structuration. In general, the most useful concepts have been seen as 'language, discourse, difference and deconstruction' (135), helping us focus on 'the temporary or historically specific and the localized or spatially specific nature of the relations of power, including gender power relations within leisure and tourism' (135). There are difficulties for conventional feminist politics, however, and a suspicion that male interests can be equally well pursued.
The concept of the Other illustrates the possible debates. Others are invariably conceived as a dualism, the powerless and weak pole in contrast to 'the Same'. The processes involved in these constructions leads to the systematic projection of women as 'inferior and abnormal', for example (quoting Wilkinson and Kitzinger, page 136). Feminists have approached this dualism in a number of ways, including speaking for the Other, celebrating Otherness, or destabilising Otherness. These themes have been taken up in postcolonial feminism and black feminism, and has led to much discussion about how to listen to Others and recognised genuine Otherness. Postcolonial feminism shares an interest in deconstructing dominant discourses and its binaries through critical engagement [and some arguments are reviewed page 137 - 8]. New theoretical discourses have emerged out of this deconstructionist critique, as in Spivak. However, hooks has pointed out that there is a tendency to systematically marginalise black subjectivities, and there is further suspicion about the relativism of the approach as weakening political action.
This approach would help us critique 'discursive constructions of leisure and tourism destinations as foreign and exotic, and the people within these landscapes as Other' (138). This clearly links with the authenticity debate and the critique of photographic images which 'convey impressions of exotic, unspoilt, natural, virginal, and desirable spaces' (138). This area is an excellent case study for the critique of colonialism, expressed best by the victims [and Roy and her account of the feelings of Kerala dancers is quoted on 138, Gosling on the feelings of Caribbeans on page 139].
Dualistic thinking and binary oppositions are hard to eradicate, however, and are found even in critical theory such as Foucault [see Fraser]. Critiques of dualist thinking have been found in a number of applied areas, including social and cultural geography. Here, dualistic thinking is defined specifically as a binary that implies a hierarchy, with one term as 'core' (citing Gregson et al, page 140). The binary divide between sex and gender has caused much debate within feminism, and is beginning to be important in side Leisure Studies too. It has led to a focus 'on women's bodies and men's minds' (140) and it needs to be studied genealogically, that is as an effect of 'institutions, practices and discourses' (quoting Butler, page 140). It has helped to produce what Butler calls 'compulsory heterosexuality and phallocentric discourse' (140). [As well as prioritising one pole, each term is also rendered coherent and consolidated].
Even conventional feminism did manage to combat the marginalization of women, and begin to discuss the best ways to research women's leisure. A major theme has been 'gender specific time spatial segregation' (quoting Mommaas, page 141). It is this that lies behind the separation of leisure from paid male employment, which in turn has marginalized many informal leisure activities, especially those which women do -- in the home, with children, shopping, consumption and so on. Poststructuralist feminism has begun to research these everyday activities. But Leisure Studies is still haunted by dualism, including the marginalization of deviance and deviant activities (citing Rojek). It is these that now need to be studied as part of consumption and identity formation -- 'clubbing, fashion, music, drug-taking, smoking, drinking' (141). [The dangers of relativism which lurk here are noted by reference to Rojek's notorious discussion of serial killing as leisure, which Aitchison opposed vigorously].
This combination of subaltern discourses will overcome the theoretical crisis. It will combine both theoretical and political elements. The discussion of Othering should be the focus.
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