CTS Asia-Pacific Conference 2020

The bi-annual Critical Tourism Studies Asia-Pacific Conference took place in Wakayama, Japan this year. Besides giving a paper presentation there myself, I moderated a session on ‘Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Tourism’ and attended numerous other sessions and presentations of colleagues in the field of critical tourism studies. This second CTS Asia-Pacific turned out, again, to be a very collegial, supportive and ‘affective’ conference, which provides space for tourism scholars to share not just the perks and pleasures of academia and intellectual life, but also to find support in each other and discuss some of the struggles that some of us encounter in our work.

The awards ceremony marked the end of the conference.

The conference was organized around three guiding themes: Responsibility, Resistance, and Resurgence. [The themes] address the multifaceted and paradoxical implications of doing tourism in increasingly troubled times. We welcome presentations from scholars and practitioners that employ a critical approach to tourism studies. Rather than simply being “critical of tourism”, we base our analyses in critical theory and praxis, and recognize the need and desire for tourism as both an industry and social practice. (Excerpt from the conference programme on: www.criticaltourismstudies.com)

Although there were so many interesting talks (some of which I couldn’t attend due to conflicting session times), I just want to highlight three talks that jumped out for me. The first was Yinn Shan Cheong‘s talk on self identity and class privilege in the context of ‘grad trips’ [graduation trips] among Singaporean youth. Yinn illustrated – using an (auto)ethnographic approach – how the normalization of travel, in particular grad trips, can help us understand class inequality and the spatialization of class privilege. The second talk that I want to highlight is one given by Anna-Maria Munar who spoke about the relatively new pilgrim route Camønoen in Denmark. The route is marketed as ‘open to everyone’ (e.g. not linked to any religion, accessible to disabled people, age-friendly). Through a visual analysis of photographs shot by ‘pilgrims’, Anna-Maria found “a strong resonance between the experience as portrayed by the pilgrims’ photographs and core aspects of existential thought such as solitude and the self, presence and contemplation, authenticity and integrity, possibility and freedom, and the passing of time; and a much lower resonance of other topics such as dread, guilt or religious faith”. Finally, Donna James‘ presented a study of Yogyakartan women’s experiences of meeting tourists through Tinder. Interestingly, Donna embarked on this study during the last CTS Asia-Pacific conference in Yokyakarta, Indonesia in 2018. Donna’s findings show that “some Yogyakartan women are engaging with tourists from the Global North through Tinder in the hope of circumventing domestic gender-related oppression, and to allow opportunities for social and sexual exploration that might not otherwise be available (mostly due to pervasive social surveillance)”.

Many thanks go out to the organizers of the conference:

Kumi Kato, Wakayama University, Japan (Conference Chair)
Adam Doering, Wakayama University, Japan
Joseph M. Cheer, Wakayama University, Japan
Mary Mostafanezhad, University of Hawai’i
Guido Pigliasco, University of Hawai’i
Harng Luh Sin, Sun Yat Sen University, China
Jeremy Lemarie, University of Paris-Est Créteil, France
Jundan(Jasmine) Zhang, Umeä University, Sweden
Hazel Tucker, University of Otago, New Zealand

Travelling by bus over the Kinokawa river to Wakayama University