An Israeli man came along to a workshop I ran recently at the Nelson Fringe Festival. The workshop centred on Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed techniques and the Israeli has been working with a mixed Israeli/Palestinian group who use Boal to generate their performances. He was  walking in Abel Tasman and seen the workshop advertised.

He was interesting to talk to. He’s an academic on sabbatical leave in Melbourne and his specialty is the sociology of tourism. That sounded fascinating so I recently searched and found a paper on the subject. Here’s some snippets to share.

There’s the organised tourist (signed up to a tour where everything’s planned), there’s the explorer (campervan hirer) and the drifter (backpacker/cyclist).

The Western tourist used to be searching for the authentic (pre-capitalist life or preserved natural site) which was often performed for them (Maori concert parties/hangi etc), but of late, things have got more fluid: there’s the arrival of the Asian tourist; members of the many diaspora communities (including Kiwis) going home for a visit, or their children and grandchildren ‘discovering home’; there are volunteers, sports teams, students studying overseas, retired nomads, disaster tourism, and the fact that people, when away, are also at home (via social media).

There’s the tourist gaze –usually through photo taking. But also the fact that most attractions (Pancake Rocks/glaciers etc.) have already been experienced digitally, so that the taking of the photo and the gaze is highly mediatized; a seeing through a media screen and adding to that screen by posting one’s own image on facebook etc.

The hosts in tourist destinations are often themselves guests, outsiders in the local community. There is the host’s performance for the tourist and the tourist’s performance for the host, constantly repeated (homestay hosts complain of having the same conversation night after night). There is the Shantytown type performance where hosts, guests, buildings, objects and machines are brought together to perform. There can be the feeling of disempowerment and even rage by local people as the tourist behaves ‘abnormally’ (driving dangerously) or leaves rubbish behind. There can be the inequality between rich tourists and poor locals.

There’s the balance between interacting socially with fellow travellers and interacting with the locals, between experiencing strangeness and the comfort of the familiar.

There are the issues of heritage sites, either embodying ‘a romantic nostalgia for a lost past’ or ‘markers of continuity in a fluctuating world’. They can often embody a ‘rhetoric of nationalism’ (or the Coast version of this).

Is it possible for there to be ‘social justice’ tourism?

There are the contradictions of eco-tourism (called by some, ego-tourism) and the carbon footprint that has been created getting to the spot in question.

I was struck by how complex the field is, and how little analysis there is locally of the field. Also how we’re expecting a lot for a Coast worker, used to doing things to the physical world, to transfer to this particular industry with its fluid perceptions and its unrealities. This is not patronising – it doesn’t altogether take my fancy as a field in which to be fully immersed.

Finally, I saw how Israel could well be a centre of this sort of research, as it hosts visitors with very complex agendas, both religious and ‘homecoming’, with complex gazes, in a country which is existentially questionable(made up of visitors), in an area of great fluidity -the Palestinian ‘at home’ in a place which has been captured by ‘the guest’ with heritage links to the area.

Finally I remembered reading how the Mexican government used every possible tool to try and destroy the Zapatista movement: military attack, use of contras, bribery, and as a last resort- the introduction of tourism to the Zapatista-controlled regions.

If you want to read the paper go to: