Tourism & Postmodernity

The second call for papers has been issued for the 16th ISA World Congress of Sociology. The event will occur in Durban, South-Africa July 23 - 29, 2006.

The RC 50 Tourism & Postmodernity Panel will discuss theoretical models
to describe the social contexts and/or conditions giving rise to tourism practice.

Call for Papers
16th ISA World Congress of Sociology
Research Committee 50 (International Tourism)
Durban, South-Africa, 23-29 July 2006

Panel directed by David Picard (Sheffield Hallam, UK)
and Stephanie Hom Cary (UC Berkeley, USA)

This is the second call for papers for the RC 50
TOURISM AND POSTMODERNITY panel as part of the 16th
ISA World Congress of Sociology which will take place
in Durban, South-Africa, from 23rd to 29th July 2006.
The aim of this panel is to critically re-discuss and,
possibly, to overcome the notion of 'postmodernity' as
a way to theorise social contexts and/or conditions in
which tourism practice emerges.

Influential writers like Jean-François Lyotard (1982),
David Harvey (1990), and Frederic Jameson (1991) have
defined postmodernity or postmodernism by the
disarticulation - or 'liquidification' - of
established and socially recognised systems of
signifiers and signified, and the implosion of
meaningful webs of relationships, which subtended
collective understandings of “reality” “truth”,
"nature" and "being". In this sense, the important
structural changes of demographic, economic and
political environments in the second part of the 20th
century were calling into question both emic and etic
categories with which to think social reality,
including nation-state, society, ethnicity, family,
gender, race, kin, time and space. At the same time,
this moment appeared to have enabled individuals to
playfully create and experiment with new semiotic
compositions; compositions that inspire novel ways of
relating to the world at large. In the context of
tourism, 'post-modern' tourists were said to embrace
the ludic as they participate and immerse in various
sign-worlds. This supposedly new form of tourist was
said to be informed of the constructed – or
“artificial” – nature of the worlds touristically
encountered. Academic discourse implicitly often
opposed these so-called “post-tourists” to earlier
forms of “modern” tourists seeking “authenticity,” in
or beyond a particular, then 'solid' tourism setting.

Typically, two different critical perspectives
theorise the relationship between post-modernity and
post-tourism. The first holds that changes in the
production and consumption of tourism have actually
taken place during the past thirty years, with tourism
becoming a manifestation of and metaphor for the
disappearance of absolute values, beliefs and
structures as well as the postmodern fluidity of
social life. The second contends that tourism as a
social practice has not fundamentally changed since
the Grand Tour, but that its underlying cultural
structures and collective imaginaries have simply
transformed into new contexts and recreated systems of
meaning by adopting new themes and aesthetic
references. In this sense, one could ask who or what,
exactly, is being 'liquidified': is it the conditions
of social life, or is it the systems of symbolic
continuity underlying the academic approach, or is it

The aim of papers to be presented during this panel is
to address the tension between these two theoretical
poles, in particular by approaching three sets of
central questions:

(a) How pertinent is 'postmodernism' or the
post-modern perspective to theorise tourism practice?
Beyond conceptualisations of post-modernity, which
alternative approaches have been brought forward to
generate a deeper understanding of tourism?

(b) Which methodological frameworks and approaches
have proven to be pertinent in making sense of tourism
and its collective nature?

(c) Seen as a form of narrative, to what extent can
academic discourse in tourism studies escape
intellectual fashions and metaphorical images
(borrowed from other disciplines or fields)?

For further details or to submit an abstract (300
words summary of presentation plus full contact
information) go to
or The deadline for the
reception of abstracts is 12th Dec 2005.

Dr David Picard
Senior Research Fellow
Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change
Sheffield Hallam University
Owen Building, Howard Street
Sheffield S1 1WB
United Kingdom

Phone: +44 (0) 114 225 3973

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