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Ethnographies of Tourismship: A Conceptual Proposition
How to approach the complex modes of belonging that unfold through tourism mobilities and imaginaries without neither imposing reductive categories on individuals nor negating the cultural traditions and socio-economic realities of these? Building on contemporary ethnographic research as well as on theoretical debates that have evolved particularly since the 1970s, this paper makes a proposition for ethnographically re-framing a dilemma that need not be one. It introduces the notion of tourismship, a conceptual tool and ethnographic guidance for looking at modes of participation and claims to belonging in tourism contexts. By studying the tourismship of individuals or groups, we focus on the influence of tourism in shaping a person’s involvement in the world and their relationship to others. At the same time, tourismship leaves open what this involvement may consist of and which terminologies are used to describe it. Ethnographically, it can for instance appear in analogy with citizenship, ownership, craftsmanship, relationship, kinship. The notion itself alludes both to tourism as a larger, cross- and trans-cultural phenomenon (therefore the use of tourism-), and to the different cultural and individual forms of doing tourism (–ship as a suffix). The concept emerged from the author’s own ethnographic doctoral field research as a way of re-framing people’s diverse, unequal and morally charged participation a rural, post-Cold War tourism setting. It proved to be a valuable tool for discussing the research participants’ complex self-positionings between the moral demands, personal desires, cultural performances, and economic struggles.