Dans le cadre du séminaire « Penser (avec et par) le tourisme »
This presentation explores a set of parallels and entanglements between social science approaches of tourism and the approaches deployed by a range of actors interacting in a specific tourism realm: the realm of touristic encounters in Cuba. The key argument is that a consideration of these analogies helps foreground certain epistemological, moral, and political assumptions in our interpretations of tourism, and can in turn improve our analyses of this phenomenon. Comparing the approaches of the tourist and Cuban men and women that engaged in touristic encounters with those of the Cuban authorities and of scholars and commentators, three main idealized scenarios are teased out. The first portrays Cuba and Cubans as virtuous victims spoiled by the neo-colonial forces in tourism and their capitalist drive towards commoditization and exploitation, the second sees them am cunning subversive tricksters resisting and taking advantage of these same forces, while the third one emphasizes their mimetic drive to embrace tourism and tourists in a claim for equal membership in a better world. Each of these scenarios is predicated on specific conceptions of agency, intentionality, and power, and highlights different dimensions and facets of tourism. Rather than suggesting that one of these approaches is 'truer' that the others, the material presented shows that it is more fruitful to think through their co-presence, and pay attention the conditions of their emergence, their purposefulness, and their consequences. Ultimately, the example considered here raises a broader question, which is how social scientists can generate more accurate, sensitive, and reflexive accounts of the complex realities that tourism brings into play, including of our role and and responsibility in them.
Valerio Simoni studied social anthropology at the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland), and received his PhD in 2009 from Leeds Metropolitan University (UK). After four years as Postdoctoral Researcher at the Centre for Research in Anthropology, Lisbon (Portugal), he is now Research Fellow at the Anthropology and Sociology of Development Department, The Graduate Institute, Geneva. His work, grounded in ethnographic fieldwork in Cuba and Spain, focuses on transformations of intimate and economic lives and controversial enactments of friendship, love, sex, and commerce in international tourism and migration. Among his publications is Tourism and Informal Encounters in Cuba (2016), published by Berghahn Books.