Tourism Studies and Epistemological Decolonization

Friday, July 18, 2014: 9:15 AM
Room: 423
Oral Presentation
Donna CHAMBERS , University of Sunderland, Sunderland, United Kingdom
In this presentation I seek to promote a decolonization of tourism studies.  This requires taking seriously the ‘epistemic perspective/cosmologies/insights of critical thinkers from the Global South thinking from and with subalternized racial/ethnic/sexual spaces and bodies’ (Grosfoguel 2007:212). In other words, epistemological decolonization requires that one take into account the ‘geo-political’ and ‘body-political’ location of the speaking subject (Grosfoguel, 2007) which has thus far been largely ignored in tourism scholarship.  This concept of decolonization bears a strong family resemblance to postcolonialism which is more widely utilised to understand tourism development in the Global South. However, decolonial scholars have proffered strong critiques  of postcolonial theory for its heavy reliance on poststructuralist and postmodernist approaches which are considered to privilege European thinkers such as Foucault, Derrida and Gramsci,  three of the ‘four horses of the apocalypse’ (Grosfoguel 2007:211). This privileging of Western thinkers has not advanced the goal of subaltern scholarship and further places eurocentrism at the fulcrum of critique. Decolonization is envisaged as a more radical project that seeks to change both the terms and the content of the conversation, to foster a different ‘epistemic grounding’ rather than seeking transformation within the context of the existing dominant Eurocentric paradigms (Mignolo 2007).

I argue that there is scarcely any evidence of this kind of decolonial critique emanating from tourism scholars and practitioners in and from the Global South.   Rather, critiques of colonial/Eurocentric  thinking emanate largely from Western researchers, who write about tourism in the Global South, often with little interaction with, and from indigenous peoples.   I argue that tourism scholars in and from the Global South need to reject Western epistemologies about tourism as representing the ‘God -eye’ view thus enabling spaces to open up for an other way of thinking about, and doing tourism.