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Viewing nature politically

posted on 2023-05-22, 13:34 authored by Adrian FranklinAdrian Franklin

It is often imagined that tourism is a unique form of social space, distinguishable, broadly, from the everyday (MacCannell 1976), the world of work (Urry 1990) and the serious governmental and business concerns of the social centre (Shields 1990). Such 'touristic' places on the so-called social margin were deemed to be sociologically distinguishable as ludic places (Rojek 1993; Shields 1990), or as merely ritual locations of recreation, social reproduction and transition (see Franklin 2003 and 2009 for a discussion of this). Worse, some, have argued that tourism creates and transits through, many forms of non-place; of airports, aircraft, route ways, resorts etc., (Auge 1995) and 'spaces of travel' that are neither the social centre nor yet the social margin (Urry 2000).

All of this creates, and indeed maintains a view, commonly held outside scholarly circles, that tourism and its social-spatial contexts are somehow less important, less crucial, less politically charged than other activities and their social-spatial contexts. This is the only possible explanation for its relative obscurity in French intellectual life (Doguet and Evrard 2008), for example, or indeed why elsewhere it is confined to a substantive and operational form of commerce (Franklin and Crang 2001).

For some time there has been a strand of research that politicises tourism, particularly from the point of view of those host peoples, islands and localities who have been adversely affected by the arrival and operation of tourism in their localities or where the arrival of tourism has created a new politics and economy around tourism as a dominant economic industry (Smith 1989). Although significant, this has not spawned a more general concern to understand how tourism at a broader and more fundamental level is deeply politicised, deeply informed by political and ethical concerns of the mainstream and plays a role in the enactment of important social and political change in modem societies. If anything, such studies, laudable as they are, perpetuate the view of tourism on the social margin.

Taking the example of the curious history of our desire to visit, be among and in various ways consume nature, this chapter seeks to show how the tourism impulse and the anthropology of tourism has been deeply infected by major social and political currents in modernity, and how it has been, rather than an epiphenomenon of questionable intellectual importance, a central means of enacting and realising a range of important new projects of humanity. As Keith Thomas (1983) ably showed, the drive to experience 'nature' is neither an inevitable nor a universal characteristic of humanity, although we can agree with Raymond Williams (1992) when he alerts us to the very common way in which nature is appealed to as a source of inspiration and guidance for social order. Only in the absence of a rigorous survey of the anthropology of nature could anyone envisage biophilia as universal.


Publication title

The Routledge Handbook of Tourism and the Environment


A Holden and D Fennell






School of Social Sciences



Place of publication

Abingdon, UK



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Copyright 2013 The Author

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Conserving natural heritage

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