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Coleman and Crang's Tourism: Between Place and Performance


Tourism: Between Place and Performance

Coleman, Simon, and Mike Crang, eds. New York: Berghahn Books, 2002. 246 p., $59.95, hardcover. ISBN: 157181745X.

Tourism: Between Place and Performance takes a fresh approach to tourism studies by focusing on the performance and performativity that mark distinct "touristified" [1 ] spaces rather than on representations of tourist locales in cultural texts such as brochures, travel accounts, images, and map(ping)s.

However, the focus and quality of the studies included in this volume is rather inconsistent. While it is definitely enriching for its readers to see how diverse theoretical approaches to tourism as performance can be taken/applied - from Fraser MacDonald's radical Marxist study of "The Scottish Highlands as Spectacle" (54-72) to the ethnologically oriented "'Cose Paesane': Tourist Performances and Contested Localities in the Italian Alps" by Keith Ridler - the qualitative differences between the specific studies is somehow disturbing, as is the fact that some of the studies seem to simply examine a specific place rather than the impact of tourism in that place (e.g. Paola Filipucci's otherwise highly informative essay "Acting Local: Two Performances in Northern Italy"). Thus, one might wonder why the collection is not entitled Localities: Between Place and Performance (or something similar) in order to account for the fact that not all contributors take tourism as the primary focus of their essays.

However, the collection is certainly noteworthy for the fact that it is very well structured. Starting out with a preface by Jeremy Boissevain (IXf.) and an introductory essay by the editors ("Grounded Tourists, Travelling Theory," 1-17), the "Place of Nature" and an examination of the concept of the sublime in its postmodern travesties is the focus of the first section, made up by essays by Claudia Bell & John Lyall, Mark Neumann, and Fraser MacDonald. "Back to the City" includes Filipucci's and Ridler's articles [2 ] as well as a study of Athens (by Penny Travlou) and London's East End (by John Eade).

This second section is followed by an inspection of "Distanciated Places" in Hazel Tucker's well-written "Welcome to Flintstones-Land: Contesting Place and Identity in Goreme, Central Turkey" (143-159) and Eve Meltzer's outstanding study of the Wall Drug Store in South Dakota and its dis-localized performances all over the world (160-175). Meltzer succeeds in combining a thoughtful semiotic analysis with socioeconomic and historic insights pertinent to the study of place. Finally, Charles Fruehling Springwood's original "Farming, Dreaming and Playing in Iowa: Japanese Mythopoetics and Agrarian Utopia" (176-190) looks at how a freelance copywriter from Hiroshima translates the Iowa baseball Field of Dreams to a rural Japanese setting.

The final section, "Bringing It All Back Home," returns to two theoretical examinations of crucial concepts in tourism studies such as authenticity (dealt with in David Chaney's controversial, yet thought-provoking study "The Power of Metaphors in Tourism Theory," 193-206) and the gaze. As most of the essays in this collection are informed by John Urry's seminal study of tourism, The Tourist Gaze [3 ], the editors make a good choice in concluding their volume with Chaney's and David Crouch's piece, "Surrounded by Place: Embodied Encounters", as both revisit Urry's conception of the gaze as the prime medium of tourist perception - for Urry, this kind of "touristified" observation rests on objectification and imperialism. Chaney's critique argues for the glance to replace the gaze, and Crouch's innovative article "challenge[s] familiar representations of tourism as a product, destination, consumption" by arguing against the predominance of the gaze in tourism studies. In his view, the perception (and thus construction) of a place is not limited to or centered on the visual, but includes all the senses as well as different kinds of subjectivities.

The last two essays both implicitly criticize the conception of tourists as a more or less homogeneous, uniform group suggested by Urry's notion of "the" tourist gaze. In fact, I had been waiting for this critique the whole time while reading through Tourism. This criticism is crucial for the collection in that it qualifies the (at times haphazard) references to Urry appearing throughout the volume, and thus re-evaluate the paradigmatic status his theory seems to have assumed for tourism studies.

An incorporation of contradictory viewpoints does not necessarily have to be a disadvantage for any collection of essays, since it always indirectly emphasizes the diversity of any academic discourse. In sum, then, readers who embrace this view and thus conceive of tourism studies as a heterogeneous, controversial, and fragmented field will find that Coleman and Crang have edited a fine volume.

Alexandra Ganser


[1 ] The term is taken from Hazel Tucker's essay on Turkey in this volume (154). It was high time, in my view, that somebody introduced "touristification" to the terminology of tourism studies, and to my knowledge it is indeed Tucker who deserves the credit for it. [^]

[2 ] It is left unexplained, however, why a study of two Northern Italian villages and one of the Italian Alps is grouped in the "City" section. [^]

[3 ] Urry, John. The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Society. London: Sage, 1990. [^]