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Thursday 17 February 2022 at 4.00-6.00pm (GMT)

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Being and dwelling through tourism: an anthropological perspective 


The Royal Anthropological Institute is pleased to present ‘Reviewer meets Reviewed’, a discussion between author
Dr Catherine Palmer 
(University of Brighton) and reviewer Prof Noel Salazar (University of Leuven). 

Much of the existing literature seeks to make sense of tourism based on singular approaches such as visuality, identity, mobility, performance and globalised consumption. What is missing, however, is an overarching framework within which these valuable approaches can be located. This book offers one such framework using the concept of dwelling taken from Heidegger and Ingold as the starting point from which to consider the interrelatedness of being, dwelling and tourism.

The anthropological focus at the core of the book is infused with multidisciplinary perspectives that draw on a variety of subjects including philosophy, material cultural studies and cultural geography. The main themes include sensuous, material, architectural and earthly dwelling and each chapter features a discussion of the unifying theoretical framework for each theme, followed by an illustrative focus on specific aspects of tourism.

This theoretically substantive book will be of interest to anyone involved with tourism research from a wide range of disciplines including anthropology, sociology, geography, cultural studies, leisure studies and tourist studies.



You can purchase the book on the publisher’s website: https://www.routledge.com/Being-and-Dwelling-through-Tourism-An-anthropological-perspective/Palmer/p/book/9781032242033 


The review

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 26, issue 4, December 2020, pp.895-896

Prof Noel Salazar

In the monograph Being and dwelling through tourism, Catherine Palmer offers us ‘a conversation about the relationship between anthropology and tourism’ that may reveal something about ‘the experience of being human’ (p. viii). The collocutor of the proposed exchange of ideas is not spelled out and, contrary to what some readers may expect, this book is not ethnographic in nature. It is more situated within the tradition of philosophical anthropology, with Martin Heidegger as the philosophical point of departure and Tim Ingold and Michael D. Jackson as the main anthropological sources of inspiration. ‘Being’ and ‘dwelling’ (as a way of being-in-the-world) are the two key analytical lenses through which the author proposes to look at tourism. In a certain sense, these concepts are opposed to the currently more fashionable notions of ‘becoming’ and ‘mobility’ developed in the tradition of motion philosophy, of which Gilles Deleuze is probably the most well-known contemporary exponent. Palmer rightly takes issue with certain assumptions of the so-called mobilities paradigm and stresses the difference between movement and mobility (p. 136). Unfortunately, she does not engage with the burgeoning anthropology of mobility scholarship to strengthen her arguments.

Despite the complexity of the subject matter, the book is very well written, and its structure is straightforward. The introductory chapter convincingly sets up the conceptual framework, whereas the last chapter acts both as a synthesis and as ‘a pause in the argument’ (p. 130). The remaining four chapters (‘Sensuous dwelling’, ‘Material dwelling’, ‘Architectural dwelling’, and ‘Earthly dwelling’) each zoom in on particular aspects of dwelling: the body and embodiment, objects, and the built environment along with the four interrelated elements of time, place, history, and memory. Each of these is illustrated through selected case studies, respectively walking and sightseeing (chap. 2); cultural heritage, particularly at Hever Castle in England (chap. 3); the airport (chap. 4); and the museum (chap. 5). The examples make it clear that the book’s emphasis is on culture and the cultural rather than nature and nature-based tourism. Critical readers may be annoyed by the heavy Western-centric (not to say Anglo-Saxon) focus when it comes to both the few real-life cases discussed and the theoretical frameworks used. Given that the author is clearly aware of the limitations of this choice (see pp. 5, 21, 126), one wonders why she did not expand her anthropological vision. Doing so would have allowed her to build exciting conceptual bridges with themes that have recently been explored by other anthropologists, such as post-humanism and alternative ontologies.

Being and dwelling through tourism promises the reader ‘a wider, more holistic understanding of how the activity of tourism enables us individually and collectively to recognise, to know and to feel that we are human’ (p. 1). Regrettably, tourism as ‘a way of being alive’ (p. 142) is not clearly defined. What exactly makes tourism special and different from other forms of travel (e.g. pilgrimage) in terms of experiences of being and dwelling? Reading through the book, one gets a sense that the touristic activities taken into account and analysed are probably those with which the author-anthropologist herself is most familiar, namely those of the more educational and cultural type, whereby the encounter with ‘Other’ (read ‘unfamiliar’) people, things, and places plays a central role. This, of course, is not representative of tourism as a whole. Moreover, whereas tourism workers and ‘tourees’ (those visited by tourists) are mentioned in passing, the book remains firmly focused on the practices of tourists. Would it not be equally (if not more) interesting to reflect also on what the experiences of those working in tourism or those who are confronted with tourists on an almost daily basis reveal about ‘being human’? How does the fundamental cosmology of ‘the freedom to use tourism to make and remake the self through engagement with the lifeworld of others’ (p. 135) play out for the actors in tourism who are not tourists, but without whom tourism cannot exist?

In sum, Palmer’s Being and dwelling through tourism offers the reader much philosophical food for thought. It may be a hard nut to crack for undergraduate students but is certainly worthwhile reading for graduate students and scholars in the social sciences and humanities with an interest in disentangling the role of contemporary tourism in ‘being’ and ‘dwelling’. As Palmer herself indicates, the book provides an attractive holistic framework that now needs to be tested on ‘other cultures and other ways of seeing, thinking and doing’ (p. 141).



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