Between Education, Commerce and Adventure. Tourist experience in Europe since the Interwar Period

Between Education, Commerce and Adventure. Tourist experience in Europe since the Interwar Period

Professor Dr Thomas Mergel / Dr Nikolaos Papadogiannis (Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin); PD Dr Maren Möhring (Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung, Potsdam).
Vom - Bis
26.09.2013 - 28.09.2013
Dr. Nikolaos Papadogiannis

Over the course of the twentieth century, tourism in Europe experienced a veritable earthquake: it ceased to be confined to the upper and middle classes and became increasingly accessible to the working class. This trend was certainly facilitated by the fact that national legislation in many Western European countries from the mid-1930s onwards granted the right to paid vacation for employees, in addition to rapidly rising standards of living in post-1945 Western Europe. Mass tourism took on many forms, among which commercial tourism featured prominently. According to Furlough and Baranowski, by the onset of the 1960s commercial tourism had created a “full-throttle global industry”. Still, numerous seemingly antagonistic models of mass tourism have emerged in Europe since the 1930s: social tourism undertaken by non-profit enterprises, state-sponsored tourism in Nazi Germany as well as in socialist European countries involved thousands of tourists and aimed at endowing their vacation with “purpose” and “meaning”. Moreover, the 1960s also witnessed the emergence of a mobile youth, appreciating both domestic and cross-border trips; some of these youths engaged in so-called “alternative” tourism, as opposed to mass and package tourism.

The aim of the conference is twofold: First, in order to better illuminate the diversity of tourist experience, it seeks to critically investigate the argument of the prevalence of commercial tourism. It intends to further scrutinize interconnections among the abovementioned and seemingly competing tourist models. A telling case is the growing appropriation of “alternative” tourist patterns by commercial tourism providers in West Germany in the late 1970s. Moreover, the conference aims to help rethread the scholarly analysis of a plethora of profound economic, social, cultural and political transformations that shaped Europe in the 20th century through the needle of mass tourism as a diverse phenomenon. It seeks to approach tourism from the perspective of the experiences of the tourists as well as of the discourses that tourists employed to lend meaning to these experiences. It intends to examine tourists of differing background with regard to social class, gender, age, nation and ethnicity, and to illuminate how travel was experienced and conceptualized by tourists who lived in various political regimes across Europe. It also wishes to closely examine the entanglements between tourism and other forms of cross-border mobility, such as migration and student exchange. Therefore, even though research investigating single countries may certainly be fruitful and is welcome, we would like to encourage the submission of papers which employ a transnational and/or comparative perspective. We would like to test the significance of Europe as a terrain, in which transnational mobility posed challenges to national borders.

Potential topics to be investigated in the conference include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Cold War and tourism. Tourist mobility across the Cold War blocs.
- Tourism, gender and sexuality.
- Cross-border tourism and “European integration”.
- Tourism as a generational experience. Young tourists inside and outside commercial tourism. Youth hostels across Europe. Youth politicization and tourism in the 1960s and the 1970s.
- Tourism and migration in post-World War II Europe. Discourses and experiences of the immigrants as tourists. Interweavings of tourism and migration affecting consumer cultures in both the native and the host areas of the immigrants. Tourism, migration and the forging of transnational spaces.

Potential contributors are encouraged in their presentations to combine empirical data with reflections on theoretical and methodological issues. The conference aims to stir further interdisciplinary discussion on conceptual issues concerning the ways in which tourism was experienced and construed. It wishes to touch upon two issues in particular, albeit not exclusively: first, the concept of the “tourist gaze”, as introduced by John Urry and employed by various historians, sociologists and social/cultural anthropologists. Is a binary model, discerning between a “romantic” and a “collective” gaze, too simplistic, as Rüdiger Hachtmann has recently argued? How could the concept be employed in a more nuanced way? Moreover, we wish to address the mobilities paradigm, which has recently appeared and which tries to emphasize “complex interdependencies” – according to Buescher, Urry and Witchger – between diverse mobilities, such as the “corporeal travel of people”, the movement of objects and interaction via diverse means of communication. In discussing this paradigm, we wish to assign the importance of the primary sources that can be used in the scholarly analysis of tourism. Therefore, the conference welcomes interdisciplinary approaches in various fields of the humanities, including history, social/cultural anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, media studies and political theory.

The conference is organized by Professor Dr Thomas Mergel and Dr Nikolaos Papadogiannis (Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin) as well as by PD Dr Maren Möhring (Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung, Potsdam). It is scheduled to take place on 26-28 September, 2013 in Berlin and will be held in English and German. Proposals for a paper should be either in English or in German and should not exceed 400 words for presentations of an approximate duration of twenty minutes. Please send an abstract by 31 July, 2012 to Nikolaos Papadogiannis (, A publication of the results is planned.



Nikolaos Papadogiannis

Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin,