A Phenomenology of Tourist Experiences

Phenomenology of Tourist Experiences
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  A PHENOMENOLOGY OF TOURIST EXPERIENCESAuthor(s): Erik CohenSource: Sociology, Vol. 13, No. 2 (May 1979), pp. 179-201Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd. Stable URL: . Accessed: 12/10/2014 06:15 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  .  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact  . Sage Publications, Ltd.  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Sociology. This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Oct 2014 06:15:42 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  A PHENOMENOLOGY OF TOURIST EXPERIENCES Erik Cohen1 Abstract ontemporary tudies f ourism ee he ourist xperience s either omething essentially purious nd superficial, n extension f an alienated orld, r as a serious search or uthenticity, n effort o escape rom n alienated orld. t s argued hat neither f hese iews s universally alid. A more iscriminating istinction etween ive types f tourist xperiences s proposed, ased n the place nd ignificance f tourist experience n the otal world-view f tourists, heir elationship o a perceived centre' and the ocation f that entre n relation o the ociety n which he ourist ives. t s proposed hat he resulting ontinuum f types f tourist xperience s both more comprehensive han lternative onceptual rameworks nd capable f reconciling nd integrating he onflicting nterpretations rising rom arlier tudies. Introduction What is the nature f the tourist xperience? s it a trivial, uperficial, rivolous pursuit f vicarious, ontrived xperiences, 'pseudo-event' s Boorstin 1964: 77- 117) would have it, or is it an earnest uest for he authentic, he pilgrimage f modern man, s MacCannell 1973: 593) believes t to be? Tourists re often een s travellers or leasure';2 owever, hough ufficient or some purposes, his s a very superficial iew of the tourist. he more precise quality nd meaning f the touristic xperience ave seldom been given serious consideration, ither n theoretical nalysis r in empirical esearch. ot that we lack controversy indeed, ecently, he nature nd meaning f tourism n modern society ecame he ubject f a lively olemic mong ociologists nd social ritics. In one camp of the polemic we find hose, ike Boorstin 1964) and ately Turner and Ash 1975), for whom tourism s essentially n abberation, symptom f the malaise f the ge. Boorstin emoans he disappearance f the raveller f old, who was in search of authentic xperiences, nd despises he shallow modern mass tourist, avoring pseudo-events'. he opposing, newer camp is represented primarily y MacCannell; he criticizes he ritics, laiming hat . Boorstin nly expresses long-standing ouristic ttitude, pronounced islike . . for other tourists, n attitude hat urns man against man n a they-are-the-tourists-I-am-not equation' MacCannell, 1973: 602). He argues hat Boorstin s approach, . . is so prevalent, n fact, among he tourists hemselves s well as among ravel writers) that t is a part f the problem f mass ourism, ot an analytical eflection n it' (MacCannell, 1973: 600). As in every polemic, however, he protagonists f the opposing iews end o overstate heir ase. Thus MacCannell, laiming o confute Boorstin's iew with mpirical vidence, tates hat None of the accounts n my collection of observations f tourists) upport oorstin's ontention hat ourists want uperficial, ontrived xperiences. ather, ourists emand uthenticity, ust This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Oct 2014 06:15:42 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  l80 ERIK COHEN as Boorstin oes' (ibid. . 600). But, MacCannell himself s very elective n the choice of his observations: is accounts re mostly f young, post-modern' (Kavolis, 1970) ourists; oorstin's hesis may well find more upport n a different sample, omposed rimarily f sedate, middle-class, iddle-aged ourists. ence, even f one admits hat oorstin's laims may be too extreme nd that ome ourists may ndeed be in search f authenticity', t nevertheless ppears oo far-fetched o accept MacCannell's argument hat all tourists ingle-mindedly ursue real', authentic xperiences, ut are denied them by the machinations f a tourist establishment hich resents hem with taged ourist ettings nd false acks'. The conflict etween hese ontrasting onceptions f tourists emains hus nresolved, as the proponents f each claim to describe the ourist' s a general ype, while implicitly r explicitly enying he dequacy f the lternative onception. In my view, neither f he pposing onceptions s universally alid, hough ach has contributed aluable nsights nto the motives, ehaviour nd experiences f some ourists. ifferent inds of people may desire different odes of touristic experiences; ence the tourist' oes not exist as a type. The important oint, however, s not merely o prove that both conceptions njoy some empirical support, hough neither s absolutely orrect; rather t is to account for the differences ithin more general heoretical ramework, hrough hich hey will be related o, and n turn lluminated y, ome broader iews f the relationship f modern man to his society nd culture. n this paper shall ttempt o do so by examining he place and significance f tourism n a modern erson's ife; shall argue hat hese re derived rom is total world- iew, and depend specially n the question f whether r not he adheres o a 'centre', nd on the ocation f this 'centre' n relation o the society n which he lives. Phenomenologically istinct modes f touristic xperiences re related o different ypes f relationships hich obtain etween person nd a variety f centres'. Tourism nd he Quest or he entre The concept of the 'centre' entered ociological discourse n several over- lapping, but not identical ashions. M. Eliade (1971: 12-17) pointed out that every eligious cosmos' possesses centre; his s . . . pre-eminently he one of he sacred, he one of bsolute eality' ibid., 7). n traditional osmological mages, t is the point where he xis mundi enetrates he earthly phere, . . . the meeting point f heaven, arth nd hell' ibid., 2). However, he entre s not necessarily eographically entral o the ife-space f the ommunity f believers; ndeed, s Victor urner as pointed ut, ts x-centric location may be meaningful n that t gives irection nd tructure o the pilgrimage as a sacred ourney f piritual scension o The Center ut There' Turner, 973). The 'centre', owever, hould not be conceived n narrowly eligious erms. . Shils (1975) has argued that every society possesses 'centre', which is the charismatic exus f ts upreme, ltimate moral values. While Shils does not deal explicitly ith he ocation f he ymbolic earers f he harismatic centre', here This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Oct 2014 06:15:42 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  TOURIST XPERIENCES 1 1 is ittle oubt hat e considers he ocus of ts paramount ymbols .g. the monarch or the crown (Shils & Young, 1953) to be ordinarily ithin he geographical confines f the ociety. hils' oncept f the entre was further eveloped y S. N. Eisenstadt 1968) who distinguishes etween multiple centres', .g. political, religious r cultural; n modern ociety hese entres o not necessarily verlap, nd their aramount ymbols may be differentially ocated. The individual's spiritual' centre, whether eligious r cultural, .e. the centre which for the individual symbolizes ltimate meanings, s the one with which we are concerned n this paper. Structural-functionalist heory, articularly n the Parsonian ariety, ssumes s a matter f course hat he piritual entre f the modern ndividual ill be normally located within he confines f his society he will conform' with this ociety's ultimate alues. uch conformity ay ndeed enerate ensions nd dissatisfactions. These, however, will be taken are of by the mechanisms f pattern maintenance' and 'tension management'. he latter will include various ypes f leisure nd recreational ctivity n which he ndividual inds elease nd relief. uch activities take place in segregated ettings, hich are not part of real' life; n Schutz's phenomenological erminology, hey may be called finite rovinces f meaning' (Berger & Luckman, 1966: 39). Though consisting f activities epresenting reversal f those demanded by the central value-nexus e.g. 'play' as against 'work'), they re functional' n relieving he ension uilt p in the ndividual nd hence einforce, n the ong run, his llegiance o the centre'.3 he individual may need relief from ension, reated by the values, but he is not fundamentally alienated rom hem. ourism, n the Parsonian cheme, s a recreational ctivity ar excellence it s a form f temporary etaway rom ne's entre, ut n relation o the individual's iography, is life-plan nd aspirations, t remains f peripheral significance. ndeed, n terms f a functional heory f eisure, ourism nly emains functional, o long as it does not become central o the ndividual's ife-plan nd aspirations since only so long will it regulate is tensions nd dissatisfactions, refreshing nd restoring im, without estroying is motivation o perform he tasks f his veryday ife. This means hat ourism s essentially temporary eversal of everyday ctivities it s a no-work, o-care, o-thrift ituation; ut t s n tself devoid of deeper meaning: t is a 'vacation', .e. 'vacant' ime. f tourism ecame central, he ndividual would become deviant', he would be seen s retreating', opting-out, r escaping he duties mposed pon him by his ociety. The assumption hat modern man is normally conformist, nd that he will hence generally dhere o the centre f his' society s, to say the east, implistic. Many moderns re alienated rom heir ociety. What about he spiritual' entre f such lienated eople? Several lternatives an be discerned: a) some may be so completely lienated s not o ook for ny entre t all, .e. not o seek ny ultimate locus of meaning; b) some, ware of what to them ooks an irretrievable oss of their entre, eek o experience icariously he uthentic articipation n the entre of others, who are as yet less modern nd less, in E. Heller's (1961) term, 'disinherited', c) some, articularly hose whom Kavolis 1970) described s post- This content downloaded from on Sun, 12 Oct 2014 06:15:42 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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