Touring Strangers, Meeting Kin. Narrative, Self, and 'the Real' in the Tourist Encounter.
Conférence donnée dans le cadre du séminaire «Penser (avec et par) le tourisme».
Wednesday 23 March 2016 (15h00 - 17h00) - Géopolis UNIL - Mouline - 3799
The paper focuses on tourist-toured encounters in the social space of "Jewish Portugal," a tourist destination defined both by the obliteration of the medieval Jewish population through mass forced conversion and by the remarkable survival of ancestral Jewish identity into the present day. Over the past two decades, a growing number of Catholic-born Portuguese have come forward with claims of long-hidden Jewish roots. While they see themselves as natural heirs to Portugal's "lost" medieval Jews, they are typically dismissed by the local mainstream Jewish community, and seek acceptance and belonging instead from contact with foreign Jewish visitors. For tourists, these would-be ancestral Jews offer an extraordinary embodiment of the metanarrative of Jewish near-destruction and survival; for the local people, the appreciative tourist gaze remakes them into who they feel they truly are. Within the touristic borderzone of "Jewish Portugal," then, both tourist and toured are transformed, each fulfilling a need of the other, their mutual presence serving to repeople a forgotten world. While derived from a single destination, this analysis opens a path to broader insight: neither a restricted area of fixed roles and meanings nor a place entirely of the imagination, the zone of touristic encounter is one of profound creativity, where bodies, sites, and narratives continuously coalesce into new configurations of self and other.
The case points at a wider general issue underlying the social space of encounters between international tourists and local populations which can be seen as fundamentally liminal, "betwixt and between" for both parties. Following such a Turnerian conception, outside their everyday worlds and the relationships that define them, their fleeting interactions in this alternative social space allow different expressions of self, and hence different experiences of belonging or exclusion, to come to the fore. In the moment of encounter the selves of both tourist and toured may be newly constituted, often in unexpected ways and according to alternative logics of truth and authenticity.