What is it about?

Following the adage that ‘‘an image is worth ten thousands words,’’ this chapter uses ethnographic pictures to illustrate two main ideas. First, tourism should be analyzed as one of the names of power. It is so because tourism fractures the continuum of reality differentiating the elements; it constantly names and arranges them into cultural categories. It also channels the relations among those elements and engenders a distinctive time-space binomial that renders these relations meaningful to people. Tourism gives a peculiar sense to the social life of groups in destinations and, consequently, orientates their daily life practices. The second idea is that tourism is probably the most sophisticated elaboration of capitalism. It is a new historical mode of managing reality. It contributes to perpetuate the center–periphery exploitation system and makes feasible the conversion of any place into a desirable destination. It not only provides with the necessary materiality of transport, room and board, and entertainment for customers, but it also commercializes the intangible and produces new meanings. Thus, to study tourism implies to analyze that complex set of sociotechnical practices and devices that, linking the desirable and the feasible, enable certain social groups to spend their leisure time away from their quotidian, including what they do in those places and the social processes induced at their destinations.

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Why is it important?

The chapter focuses on territories where the tourism industry has been present for decades. In these territories a particular structure is overtly present. In consolidated destinations, such as Spain, tourism becomes the context of enunciation and, consequently, it acts as a very important mediator in the understanding of social practices. The cases guide the reader through this general argument. Starting with the global revolts of the Arab Spring in their fight for democracy, and ending with the commercialization of Holy Week in the Spanish provincial town of Zamora. Tourism is presented as a context through which practices could be better comprehended.


I personally like very much this text. Though dense at certain points, it might be one of the more descriptive papers I have published. Full of illustration and semiotic analysis.

Dr Antonio Miguel Nogués-Pedregal
Universidad Miguel Hernandez de Elche

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Chapter 3 When the Desirable and the Feasible Converge Through Tourism Space, January 2012, Emerald, DOI: 10.1108/s1571-5043(2012)0000017006.
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