The anthropology of tourism started in the 1960s and 1970s as a distinct field of study is relatively a new branch both within academic and applied anthropology. The anthropological study of tourism has grown impressively since 1970s and early 1980s when Valene Smith (1977), Malcolm Crick (1995, 1989), Dennison Nash (1977, 1981), Nelson Graburn (1977, 1983a.) and Erik Cohen (1974, 1979b, 1984) among others brought attention to the field by their contributions. Earlier anthropologists may have been reluctant to investigate these phenomena because tourism was considered too close to what anthropologists do themselves when they are in the field (Crick, 1995). Tourism was not on the charts of anthropological inquiry until Valene Smith’s work Hosts and Guests:

The Anthropology of Tourism was first published in 1977. A decade later with the second edition of the book in 1989, the anthropology of tourism had become more popular and was being regarded as a valid, applied area of study. Having acquired enough anthropological legitimacy and with the publication of journals like The Annals of Tourism Research, the anthropology of tourism now covers a wide range of aspects and themes. Scholars like Philip Pearce 1982, contributed to the social psychology of tourism; Graburn 1977, looked at tourism as a form of escapism or pleasure-seeking mechanism; Nash’s work discussed the consequential aspects of the relationship between tourists and the host population; Selwyn 1994, studied tourism from the economic, political, social and cultural contexts; Urry 1990, did a systematic study of tourist motivation from a social science perspective; Boissevain 1996, did a longitudinal study of tourism and commoditization of the host culture; Cohen in 1988 studied the typology of tourists; Dann 1997, in his work had proposed that research must contribute towards sustainable tourism. These studies have contributed immensely to the anthropological perspective on tourism.

Let’s summarise from the above anthropological works the relevance of anthropology for tourism studies:

a. anthropologists argue that people rather than business should be the heart of the analysis of tourism.

b. anthropology as a discipline offers a critical analysis of tourism by recognizing the economic, environmental, and social domains within the bigger framework of today’s globalized world.

c. with its in-depth, qualitative approach, anthropology stands in a unique position to study human dynamics and tourism.

d. as a discipline with a field-based and ethnographic approach, anthropology seeks to gain primary information on the impacts of tourism; helps in studying the variety of phenomena in different locations in order to gain an insight into the common trends in tourism; and

e. with its holistic approach, anthropology allows the study of cross-cultural encounters and social transactions that happen in a touristic activity.

The current anthropological thinking is that tourism is too complex and there is a need to thread together a number of issues. There is a need to see the cultural impact of tourism and also have a deeper understanding of local-global relationships shaped by tourism. Various anthropological perspectives have been employed to have a greater understanding of the nature of tourism and its effect on the structure of society.

Questions Answers

 List the different avenues from which anthropologists have studied tourism

Describe how anthropology can be useful for the study of tourism?

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