University of Tasmania

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Gay neo-tribes : an exploration of space and travel behaviour

posted on 2023-05-26, 15:02 authored by Oskaras Vorobjovas-PintaOskaras Vorobjovas-Pinta

Academic research into the experiences and desires of gay travellers has not kept pace with societal change and transformation. There is a dearth of inquiry that explores gay travellers’ sense of connectedness to other gay travellers, the spaces or locations they share, and the activities that are particular to the broad umbrella of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) tourists. This PhD by publication seeks to address this gap by drawing on the concept of the ‘neo-tribe’ as one way of conceptualising belonging, connectedness, and affinity for travellers identifying as gay.

This thesis argues neo-tribal theory offers a powerful means to explore the social aspects of travel. In the literature, neo-tribes are defined as fluid groupings of people who come together from different walks of life. This thesis posits that there are four fundamental aspects to a neo-tribe: a) shared sentiment, b) rituals and symbols, c) fluidity in membership, and d) space. Significantly, it makes a theoretical contribution by establishing the role of space as a point of coherence around which neo-tribes form. A deepened understanding of this phenomenon is critical, as the importance of gay space to the gay community has already been acknowledged in the present body of literature examining gay travel.

Within tourism studies this thesis also makes significant contributions through its application of neo-tribal theory and demonstration that the concept offers an alternative to traditional segmentation studies. While the concept has gained prominence in sociological studies, it has been applied less extensively in tourism and leisure research. This is surprising as neo-tribalism offers many opportunities to expand existing knowledge of gay travellers, especially in terms of their behaviour, motivations and experiences.

The fieldwork undertaken for this research took place in an exclusively gay and lesbian resort in Far North Queensland, Australia in September and October 2014. Ethnographic methods including semi-structured interviews and participant observation were leveraged to gain a close record and understanding of the resort’s visitors, who were predominantly gay men. The data that resulted from these methods were used to build understanding of whether these travellers constituted a neo-tribe, using the four aforementioned aspects. Significantly, the intimate relationship between a LGBT minority-majority tourist community and the secluded environs of the resort demonstrated the power of the spatial element as the linking value between these disparate elements of neo-tribal identity.

Drawing upon the findings, this manuscript asserts that neo-tribal theory adds new and valuable insights into our understanding of gay travellers, in terms of their behaviour, motivations and experiences. Space transcends the mere framing of neo-tribal experience; it is the fulcrum of neo-tribal assembly and life, and it mediates the other characteristics of tribal identity. The spatial characteristic becomes transformed through a paradigm of shared ownership into the very substance that holds the neo-tribe together. These findings establish that without space as this shared currency, the other three elements of neo-tribes can have no collective form, and that the tribal identity will dissipate.





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