BANS 183



Human beings with their innate curiosity and the urge to know what lies beyond their immediate horizons have ventured to far-off places since time immemorial. Tourism is intrinsic to the human desire to travel and explore thus, every human being at one point in time or the other has explored as a tourist, be it going on a short vacation, pilgrimage, etc.

Tourism affects not only the lives of the people who visit places as a tourist but also has a huge impact on the spaces visited that is the host communities' social and economic lives, the natural environment, artistic productions, and so on. Thus, anthropology is intricately associated with tourism. The focus of tourism anthropology is to understand the social and cultural aspects of tourism and the behaviors of the tourist (guest) that effects the host culture.

In this four-credit course, we will try to understand the anthropology of tourism and tourists. It’s developed through an anthropological lens to understand the commodification of culture owing to tourism. The course will also take into account the tangible and intangible heritages and the new emerging avenues in the field of tourism anthropology.


1 Introduction to Tourism

2 Tourist and Tourism

3 Tourism through Anthropological Lens 

4 Tourism and Culture

5 Commodification of Culture


6 Political Economy of Tourism

7 Tourism versus Heritage Sites

8 Tangible and Intangible Heritage

9 Ecotourism

10 New Directions in the Anthropology of Tourism 

After completing the course, a learner is expected to:

  • define tourist and tourism;
  • comprehend the relationship between anthropology and tourism;
  •  explain how the tourist affects the lives of the host community; and
  • discuss the conservation, preservation, and way forward for the environment
  • friendly tourism

Introduction to Tourism, with the understanding that for many, this is your first brush with anthropology, we are introducing anthropology to the learners in brief in this section along with tourism. This would provide the learner a background for the upcoming units.

Further, we move on to discuss the meanings, history, tourism aspects, and prospects of tourism; in the second unit, Tourist and Tourism, here we have tried to acquaint the learners with the basic terminologies that are used in the tourism industry, defining types of tourist and tourism, classifications, interconnections between tourism history and the rise of the socio-cultural study of tourism including temporary migration, colonial exploration, pilgrimage, visiting relatives, imagined and remembered journeys.

The third unit Tourism through the anthropological lens is dedicated to the study of tourism through anthropological perspectives. The aim of this unit is to understand how concepts and theories in anthropology have been blended to understand tourism and make it a part of anthropological studies. The tourist as ethnographer; ethnographer as a tourist, pilgrimage, anthropological issues, and theoretical concerns, and authenticity issues are being looked at from an anthropological perspective.

In the fourth unit Tourism and Culture, the attempt is to understand the implications of tourism as a major mechanism of cross-cultural interaction. The role of symbolism, semiotics, and imagination in tourism and the impact of tourism on culture is the focus area. The fifth unit in this block is the Commodification of Culture. This unit with examples presents the impact of tourism on culture and how the commodification of culture or cultural degradation takes place.

The aim here is to understand the global and local political economy of contemporary tourism, particularly about international development, the international flow of capital, etc., with examples from the Indian context. Unit seven, Tourism versus Heritage Sites explores the dynamic relationship between heritage-making enterprises, revival, and preservation of projects followed by case studies of heritage sites. 

Unit eight, Tangible and Intangible Heritage focuses on the role of museums and other branches of the cultural industries” [including music, art, and food] in tourism economies; tourism and global mobility, for example- a case study of the Kalbelia song and dance of Rajasthan which has been included in the intangible heritage list of UNESCO.

Ecotourism unit nine deals with the definitions and their impact on human society with examples from India, example of Kerala, Assam, and Nagaland has been cited here to show how sustainable development is being taken care of along with the promotion of tourism. In the last unit, New Directions in the Anthropology of Tourism: globalization, tourism, and languages, applied aspects of anthropology in tourism development and planning have been taken into account. Let us now take you through the units. 

If you understand how to approach the units and systematically read the course material you would benefit as a learner. As we have already stated the blocks are divided thematically, thus, a learner is advised to read the units in a sequence in terms of the themes so that they can connect and comprehend the link between two units. 

If you read randomly, you might find it difficult to comprehend concepts and definitions and lose the thread of the unit. For easy reading and better comprehension, the units have been divided into sections and sub-sections. Each section is indicated clearly by BOLD CAPITALS and each sub-section by bold and small letters. The significant divisions within a sub-section are still in smaller bold letters to make it easier for you to see their place within the subsections. The items which need to be highlighted are numbered as a., b., c., etc.

How do we study anthropology?

The emergence of anthropology is rooted in the European journey of exploration and colonization of the East. During the early years, the anthropologists known as ‘armchair anthropologists’ did not venture out for data collection in the field. The earliest written accounts like the Golden Bough published in 1890 by Sir James Frazer, were based on the narrations of the travelers, the administrators, the missionaries, etc., who traveled to far-off places and brought back ‘exotic’ stories of the lands, peoples and their cultures. With time, anthropology was established as a field science and fieldwork became the hallmark of anthropological study.

Malinowski’s work among the Trobriand Islanders is reckoned with as the way forward for conducting scientific fieldwork among the ‘natives’ using participant observation, interview, and case study methods. Living with the people under study for a long period ideally one year and using the local language are some of the take-ups away from Malinowski’s work that even today form the backbone of anthropological studies. The significance of fieldwork lies in understanding three basic questions: Introduction to Tourism.

What do people think they ought to do? (Ideal behavior) What do people say they do? What do people actually do? (actual behavior) The data collected is based on the lives of the people with whom the anthropologists come in close contact during/her stay in the field. The idea is to gather the insider’s view (emic) and not just study the people objectively. Subjectivity plays a major role in anthropological studies where the anthropologist's aim is to understand the relativeness of the society and its cultures with the catchwords being ‘here’ and ‘now’. This applies to the rituals, customs, norms, values, and other practices which might seem irrational, crude, and not humanistic to an outsider, for a person from the Western world who visits an Eastern place.

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