Tourism has been an unequal industry since its beginnings in the nineteenth century. Who can and cannot tour the world for leisure and recreation – a question currently finding yet another iteration in the COVID-19 vaccine passport debates – has always depended on and reinforced global hierarchies. Nowhere has this been clearer than in the many imperial and colonial contexts where tourism first became established as a global industry.
From Thomas Cook’s organized excursions to Egypt to sanatoriums in British India to hunting safaris and car rallies in 1950s Africa, tourism reinforced and created patterns of inclusion and exclusion between colonizers and colonized wherever the colonial territory became a destination. These legacies of empire last into today’s postcolonial era, in which tourist sites and their associated imaginaries echo the imperial past. Yet despite these evident intersections, the historiography on the entanglements between imperial and tourist practices remains limited. As Eric G.E. Zuelow observed in his 2016 book A History of Modern Tourism, “despite separate and growing literatures on tourism and empire, historians have yet to systematically explore connections between the two” (95–96), a statement that still holds today.
Our workshop aims to fill this gap. With case studies from different historical settings, the workshop explores the dynamics of tourist travel in colonial and imperial contexts. Three hitherto neglected aspects inform our agenda:
1) The connection between tourism and imperial (infra)structures. To what extent did colonial tourism industries benefit from existing structures, such as railways or settler outposts, and to what extent did the industry itself help expand these systems and facilitate their economic “mise en valeur”?
2) The trans-colonial and intra-regional dimension of tourism. Did tourist circuits connecting the colonies of different empires create a shared European imperial culture that transcended national identities? What kinds of exchanges and connections were facilitated by middle-class officials’ or merchants’ leisure tours of neighbouring rival colonies?
3) The workers of imperial tourism. What was the everyday experience of guides, porters, or hawkers? To what extent did they act as intermediaries between visitors and visited and how did their activities shape the tourist experience? What motivated people to choose a profession in the tourism sector? What was their place in an emerging global industry?
We welcome submissions from a broad range of colonial and imperial settings from all geographical areas, dating roughly from the onset of the age of steam until the era of decolonization (ca. 1840s–1970s). Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
- the emergence of, and contemporary reactions to, specific trans-colonial tourist circuits
- the economic importance of specific kinds of tourism to specific colonies
- longue durée histories of a single tourist site that illuminate changes in uses and interpretation over time
- the relationship between tourism and “exploration” as imperial modes of travel, as well as between tourism and imperial knowledge production more widely
- tourism promotion as a form of imperial propaganda in both the metropole and the colonies
- tensions between tourism from the metropole and colonial administrations’ attempts to “gatekeep” their territories and expel unwanted troublemakers
- how tourism built on and adapted local, pre-existing modes of leisure and travel and the role of the colonized in developing tourism industries
- forms of reverse tourism to the metropole and tourist activities of colonial elites
- environmental histories of how tourism interacted with and affected local ecologies
The workshop is jointly organized by Mikko Toivanen (Munich Centre for Global History) and Andreas Greiner (German Historical Institute, Washington, DC) and will take place online on 18–19 November 2021 using Zoom. The virtual format is an opportunity to initiate dialogue between scholars from different world regions without the usual budget and visa restrictions, and we especially encourage submissions from scholars in the Global South. There is limited funding available for costs related to online participation (e.g. for SIM cards, data volume, etc.); please indicate in your submission if you foresee needing this.
Please submit an abstract (max. 300 words) and a short biography (max. 150 words) in English by 1 June 2021 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Decisions of acceptance will be announced by 1 July. Confirmed participants are expected to submit a preliminary paper of 3,000–4,000 words in October. We plan to publish a selection of extended workshop papers as a special issue in a peer-reviewed journal.
For questions, please contact the organisers Andreas Greiner (greiner[at]ghi-dc.org) and Mikko Toivanen (mikko.toivanen[at]lmu.de).