Foucault, sustainable tourism, and relationships with the environment (human and nonhuman)

Hanna, Paul; Johnson, Katherine; Stenner, Paul and Adams, Matt (2015). Foucault, sustainable tourism, and relationships with the environment (human and nonhuman). GeoJournal, 80(2) pp. 301–314.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-014-9557-7

Abstract

Drawing on contemporary research into ethical consumption and sustainable tourism this article starts by outlining the ways in which sustainable tourism (and other forms of ethical consumption) has been understood as a means to perform class based distinctions. At this stage, it is suggested that whilst class may be one factor in understanding such a complex phenomena there might also be a need to examine the practices of sustainable tourist in a manner that takes seriously individual attempts to ‘be ethical’. Foucault’s understanding of ethics is then offered as a means through which this can be achieved. A brief account of the method used to read individuals accounts of sustainable tourism through an ethical Foucauldian lens is then presented. Following this the paper presents the analysis of interviews with sustainable tourists focusing on two key elements. Firstly, the analysis presents the emotional and reciprocal elements of interactions between sustainable tourists and the human ‘other’. Secondly the analysis examines the relationship between the sustainable tourist and non-human environments to further develop the understanding of the emotional and reciprocal elements in light of a Foucauldian ethics. In conclusion it is suggested that rather than merely representing a mode of class distinction, sustainable tourism can be understood through an appreciation of the emotional and reciprocal relationship with the other, thus taking seriously individuals attempts to engage with ethical practices.

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