Book Review – Tourism & Embodiment

Fantastic to review Catherine Palmer & Hazel Andrews new edited collection a great read and incredibly timely in these turbulent times. Here is a link to the new book

Tourism & Embodiment
by Catherine Palmer and Hazel Andrews, Abingdon, Routledge, 2020, 225 pp., £120 (Hardback), ISBN 978-1-138-57355-0 (hbk); £40.49 (e-book), ISBN 978-0-203-70153-9 (ebk)

Review: Dr Jenny Hall

Catherine Palmer & Hazel Andrews draw on cutting edge research to inspire readers to think through the impact embodied experiences have in forming touristic experiences and destinations. Rich case studies are illuminated through a range of experimental multidisciplinary ethnographies that centre on ‘interpreting and representing sensory knowing’ (Pink, 2009). The book makes an important contribution to tourism anthropology by broadening our understanding of how the tourist body experiences, shapes and is constructed through embodied and sensuous experiences. By encompassing a wide milieu of perspectives the volume explores how gendered, queer, racial and disabled identities are expressed through a range of power geometries. Questioning the scope of the tourist body brings into view host communities, objects and technologies as well as human-animal relations to broaden the spaces and places of embodied touristic experiences.

This volume explores embodied tourism scholarship through several under-researched themes, firstly it challenges notions of difference in tourist destinations. It does so, by problematising socio-cultural norms that shape how tourists and hosts communities are expected to behave. Here the notion of ‘othering’ as a term that Powell & Menendian, (n.d.) refer to as a ‘clarifying frame that reveals a set of common processes and conditions that propagate group-based inequality and marginality’ (ibid (n.d.)) is exemplified by the academic insights presented in this book. For example, Portales & Nogués-Pedregal’s (Chapter 5) research shows how disabled bodies carry the stigma of illness that does not match perceived dominant notions of holiday destinations as a place of paradise. Moreover, they demonstrate that embodied research can open up new ways to understand how we should approach cognitive and sensory diversity in developing our understanding of accessible tourism. Difference or otherness is echoed in Anna de Jong and Bradley Rinks chapters’ that explore how the queering of bodies can create exclusive spaces that both challenge and reinforce stereotypes. Difference is also extended beyond human dimensions to encompass human-animal relations in Sally Ann Ness (Chapter 3) insightful chapter, which explores the agency of bears in tourist destinations and how we might move from human-centred or anthroprocentric to a broader more animal-aware or zoocentric theory of tourism. Thus, Ness opens a moral debate on transspecies encounters and meaning-making in tourist destinations.

Secondly, a theme centres on how our interactions with objects and physical places create and recreate destinations on the move by exploring how mobile bodies co-constitute sites of remembrance, technology, yoga, with children or carrying heavy backpacks over challenging terrain producing autobiographical sedimentations in the body. Howard & Dupers (Chapter 14) expand the spatiotemporal notion of being ‘home or away’ through the use of technology demonstrating how we can be at once on holiday and at the same time at home expanding the boundaries of what it is to be on holiday. Such experiences as Palmer and Andrews (Chapter 1) assert gather as a bodily history of travel and knowledge through practices of thinking, movement and sensing. Embodied experiences through sensing are historicised within the body through which it learns and remembers how to behave (Bourdieu, 1977). As such, tourist destinations are relational and in motion where places accompany travellers in embodied forms of memory, digital interaction and kinaesthetic knowledge.

Thus, this book investigates how tourists move in and construct shared cultural worlds through participatory and sense-making processes that are transformative of both themselves and the host communities and spaces they interact with. A range of theoretical explorations from affective, phenomenological through actor-network theory traces the irreducible nature of the interdependence between individual and collective processes and practices of embodied minds. These theoretical explorations provide openings for designing experimental methodologies and ethnographies that provide practical methods for gathering and interpreting embodied empirical data. Methodologically this book makes a nod to the work of anthropologists such as Pink (2009) and Ingold (2010) by taking a holistic approach that explores the senses as interconnected, interrelated and multisensory. For example, Kuijpers (Chapter 11) describes the process of ‘co-performative witnessing’ that goes beyond cognitive experiences, where she experienced the physical stresses and pain inflicted on the body through the production of ‘slow food’ in Turkey. This led to insights on how the romanticised image of slow food has changed the bodies of Turkish women who endeavour to meet the increasing demand for ‘slow food’. In contrast, Rink (Chapter 4) explores the historical touristic mapping of city spaces through the lens of the Pink Map produced for Cape Town, South Africa. Using discourse analysis he reveals how a stereotyped sexualised queer body embodied through a series of texts, symbols and images become a site of consumption.

Thoughtfully weaving a breadth of theory with rich case studies and academic concerns with embodiment, Tourism and Embodiment offers a holistic framing for academics and students to critically think through the body in tourism anthropology and related social sciences. The book focuses on the complex ways in which the touristic body gathers together the social, physical and cultural and transforms them into destinations. It provides a rare and sustained insight into embodiment in terms of difference and the mobile subject and makes an important call to scholars to extend the field.

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ingold, T. (2010). The perception of the environment: Essays on livelihood, dwelling and skills (New Preface ed.). London: Routledge. [Google Scholar]
Pink, S. (2009). Doing sensory ethnography. London: SAGE.

Powell, A. J., & Menendian, S. (n.d.) The problem of othering: Towards inclusiveness and belonging. Othering & belonging, expanding the circle of human concern. Othering & Belonging Institute, UC Berkeley [Internet] Retrieved from


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