Visiting Scholarship Japan

In November and December 2016, I had the privilege to spend time with colleagues at both Tokyo University and Rikkyo University (Japan). During my visiting scholarship, I also delivered lectures at both host institutions. The visit was a wonderful opportunity to engage in formal and informal discussions with colleagues that work in the field of tourism and geography, as well as graduate and postgraduate students. I hope to further develop future research endeavours with colleagues at Rikkyo University’s College of Tourism. Hereafter is a short summary of the two-month visit.

Invited lecture at Tokyo University

Together with Claudio Minca, I presented a lecture in the “Critiquing Diversity” lecture series, as part of the Integrated Human Science Program at Tokyo University. The lecture, entitled “The Geographies of the Sharing Economy”, discussed the consequences platform technologies have for the ways in which people and places are drawn into a “sharing” geography, and what “values” they come to have in a new “sharing economy”. Drawing on biopolitics as an analytical framework, we discussed what it means to share a home and the intimacies of one’s private life in the sharing economy of Airbnb. We further discussed the travel philosophies and business objectives that underlie platforms like Airbnb and what will they mean for how places are understood in the future.

Lecture Hall Rikkyo University

The presentation in Rikkyo University’s undergraduate lunch seminar series centered on some of the (relatively) “new” ways in which tourism is organized today, focusing in particular on the popularization of sharing economy platforms such as Airbnb and others. The presentation exemplified how local and global governments are continuously challenged in adapting legal frameworks to grapple with issues that arise from the platforms’ practices, pertaining to tax evasion, licensing requirements, and gentrification, among others. The broader aim of the presentation was to provoke thinking on the future of tourism, taking into account the potential social and spatial impacts that result from the digitization of tourism.

Finally, the third lecture that was part of Rikkyo University’s College of Tourism graduate program addressed how, in today’s tourism, everyday life and home-making are drawn into a “sharing economy” of tourism, and how performances of “home” are given value. Based on an (auto)ethnographic study of Airbnb that I carried out in Sofia, Bulgaria, my aim was to tease out some of the contested ways in which both hosts and guests engage in the everyday embodied practices of home-making. With lecture, I aimed to provide a critical understanding of the contemporary geographies of home in relation to the global sharing economies of tourism.

With Professor Jiho Han

I would like to thank my colleagues and the students at Tokyo University and Rikkyo University for their valuable comments on my lectures. In particular, I would like to thank Professor Jiho Han and Professor Kazuo Murakami for their hospitality during this visit.