Wearing, B and Wearing, S (1996) 'Refocusing the tourist experience: the flâneur and the choraster', in Leisure Studies, Vol 15: 229 - 43.
There is a need to rethink the basic categories used in tourism research. These appear to be universal but are in fact dominated by male conceptions. There has been a gradual recognition of this in the increasing interest in 'differences in class, race, ethnicity, age and gender' (229). Feminist work suggests important alternatives. Before we get there, we need to reconsider Kelly and his interactionist perspective. This stresses that tourism involves encounters between active individuals in particular spaces. This helps us see that 'tourism is not an escape from the workaday world... but an escape to a social space which allows for learning and growing' (230). [So an assumption is made here immediately that interaction will and must lead to learning and growing?]. A focus on interaction also helps us see that the real issues are not the authenticity of objects, and tourism is far more than sightseeing [oddly, MacCannell and Urry are cited as having these naive views]. Feminist geographers help us see that the space is occupied by tourists are imbued with meaning as a result of interaction: these meanings [must?] bring a permanent change in the conception of self.
Both Tourism and Leisure needs to focus on the processes that lead to new constructions of experience, rather than focusing on time [the work-leisure relationship], or the apparent distinctiveness of places away from home [the insistence on this distinctiveness is really down to academics wanting to maintain a strong boundary between Tourism and Leisure? -- see Carr on this?]. There are even some implications for more effective marketing based on processes rather than images and stressing interactions as an essential part of tourism. These changes can be summarised by considering the tourist not as a flâneur but as a 'choraster'.
Feminist work can be used to subvert the usual male inspired notions -- the flâneur, 'the "tourist gaze", the tourist "destination" , the marketing "image", the "visit"' (231). Feminist analysis has appeared in different stages all levels: gender can be considered as an additional independent variable affecting the tourist industry; as a dependent variable, where gender relations have changed as a result of tourism impacts; and more fundamentally to 'challenge and subvert some of the basically male assumptions in Tourism theory' (232). The tourist was often simply taken to be a male. The purpose of tourism was to establish (well bounded) identities and enhance well-being. The concept of the flâneur captures this set of conceptions. The flâneur browses and observes, and escapes the workaday world for a brief moment of leisure. This is only possible for gentleman with independent wealth who can avoid onerous work. They can be no female flâneurs because such freedom and independence to wander were not granted to women in the 19th century. However, the very concept might be a masculine one [there is a suggestion that distinctively male pleasures of voyeurism and mastery over women are involved -- clear possible links with the notion of the male gaze in Mulvey]. It is also true that the flâneur does not interact, remains anonymous and isolated. Wilson is quoted here as arguing that this is an oddly 'feminine' stance, involving passivity: '"The flâneur represented not the triumph of masculine power but its attenuation"' (Wearing and Wearing, page 233). [This point is largely ignored by the authors, however. It also seems to me impossible to avoid a class dimension here -- not put too fine a point on it, bourgeois sensibility can approach femininity]. No one seems to gain pleasure from being a flâneur.
Post-structuralist feminist theory argues for deconstruction of male concepts of this kind. Grosz is cited as recommending: 'serious questioning of: phallocentric adherence to universal concept of truth and methods of verifying truth; objectivity; a disembodied, rational sexually indifferent subject; the exploration of women's specificity in terms that continue to valorise and privileged the masculine' (233). The main alternative concept is that of 'chora'. This concept is used to suggest a space of possibilities, a space that constitutes all actual concrete spaces (234). [The authors identify Plato as the source of this concept. Specifically, the term is associated for me with the work of Kristeva, who refers to a 'semiotic chora' as a field of possibilities for meaning existing before male dominated language actually colonises the business of making meaning. It is a way out of the trap identified by Lacan, who pointed out that language is inextricably bound up with male power - see file. I'm also reminded of the debate in Loesberg who suggests that a number of social theorists have to work with this concept of a virtual field of possibilities out of which concrete events and processes emerge -- it is a fundamentally religious conception for him].
Open-ended tourist destinations could be conceived as chora, 'spaces in which people interact, spaces that take their meaning from the people that occupy them, both the tourist and the host' (234), rather than as literal geographical locations. The work of de Certeau on walking in the city is cited as a further illustration: walkers literally create their own symbolic space regardless of the intentions of the urban planners. A further feminist argument suggests that male categories privilege time over space [again a reminder for me of feminist film theory and suspicions about narrative]. Instead, specific interrelations should be stressed. Males may find such openness threatening, but feminists need to preserve this kind of fluid notion of identity [shades of Irigaray here for me, taking on male logic by saying that there is no single opposite of 'penis' but a string of possible opposites].
The construction of meaning becomes central to tourism, 'the opportunity for relationality in leisure' (235). Interaction is to be pursued 'with other tourists and with representatives of the host community', and, possibly, with 'the receptionist, the bellboy, the waiter/waitress, the hotel manager/ess and the taxi driver' ( 235). [I find this very disappointing -- these are the sorts of interactions that you can have at home. The real challenge, of course, is to interact with local residents, which is impossible, MacCannell reminds us unless you are serious enough to learn their language. Again, I think this whole discussion needs to refer back to class: the bourgeoisie at home don't learn anything from interactions with their servants, except a sense of their own cultural superiority , and I doubt if they will in five-star hotels abroad either]. The 'social value'of the place is of more analytic use than the concept of image. Social value can also remind us that places are resources for series of interactions over time, collective attachment, places that embody community values. [It is no surprise at this point to realise that these are Australian authors discussing Australian examples -- a major encounter with otherness in Australia turns on descendants of immigrants encountering ancient Aboriginal landscapes].
Social value also has a commercial benefit and 'needs... at this stage of tourism development to be drawn to the attention of tourist promoters' (236). [Real supping with the devil here for feminist interactionists?]. As an example, the Calgary Winter Olympics included a space set aside for informal interaction 'such as pin trading, pancake breakfasts, and people watching' (236). Apparently, Calgarians were able to encounter visitors there, talk to them, and even invite them home for a drink [presumably those that spoke the same language. Again we are a long way away from that encounter with radical otherness that obsessed MacCannell and other advocates of 'existential authenticity'. For writers such as Beezer, this kind of encounter simply confirms ideas that have developed at. To be fair, the authors do recognise that encounters will also reflect 'relationships of power between visitor and host cultures and within the host culture' (237)]. Emphasizing interactions like this will help us move away from the attention given to objects, to images in tourist brochures, to the issues of authenticity of objects, and so on.
The image of the self is a dynamic one, stressing development and existential openness. For Kelly, leisure is an ideal site to pursue such openness, and so is tourism. Some tourists, as we know, encounters sites with a 'heightened consciousness' (238) [hence the religious connotations of some tourism]. Simmel and Mead are both used to underpin the possibility of openness (238 - 9). The general possibilities can be realised in tourist encounters with different cultures. [The language here becomes rather cautious, though --'presumably' this contact will produce variety; 'Contact with alternative cultures must in some way affect the "me"' (238). I love the word 'must' in contexts such as this -- must for philosophical reasons, must because some generative social process will ensure it, must because we could not believe in this project otherwise?]. Changes affect the subjective self, and thus win study both agency and social structures.
Butler can also be cited in support, with her notion that sexual identities are not fixed an essential but have to be performed. These identities can be arranged by one individual 'without a hierarchy of causation or political action' (239). This stresses the idea of 'becoming', as well as denying any natural basis for patriarchy. Later MacCannell appears here too, with his plea for hybrid cultures, imaginative travellers, and dialogue [I always thought he was arguing for this in the earlier work too, and not just advocating some simple notion of authentic tourism]. Power differentials are recognised again, together with the possibility that Western ideas may be simply imposed on host cultures, or confirmed by encounters. Nevertheless the possibilities should be emphasised, and the potential for challenge developed. [My view, this is where the analysis should start, not stop -- what political strategies are available to those wishing to develop this resistance and challenge? Demonstrating abstract possibilities is a very preliminary stage.]
Thus, in conclusion, a gendered perspective can add to analyses of tourism. Concepts like the tourist as flâneur should be challenged and replaced with the notion of a choraster. Symmetry should be encouraged between tourist and host, and human interaction developed [so we need to learn different languages first?]. Qualitative methods are needed in tourist research, and the notion of social value should be taken up by the tourism industry, instead of creating artificial environments [so the old arguments have not been transcended?]. Research on the impact of tourism should also take into account this notion of social value, interaction, and the development of the self. Policy-making too should involve wide interaction. Tourism should progress beyond providing 'flat and unimaginative reflections of a one-dimensional way of seeing the world' (241).
[It seems to me that the kind of feminist analysis pursued here has opened up many possibilities, but has also ended in political naivety and the valorisation of some old notions of authentic travel versus nasty inauthentic tourism. I think this is because of a number of problems. One is the tendency to take the notion of the chora too simply, and graft it uncritically on to tourist destinations -- in this way the real political and social divisions and power relationships of the tourist destination are submerged in the idealistic notion of the 'chora'. If the authors want to tangle with the real political and social divisions, they must surely include class and ethnicity as well as gender: at the moment, they risk merely describing the kind of pleasures that feminist academics might wish to see in tourist encounters. I'm sure the industry will be pleased to oblige with new niches for such people.]
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