• Understanding and interpreting tourism: a constructionist probe into the epistemology of tourism studies

      Pernecky, Tomas (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2009-06)
      The landscape of Tourism Studies has been marked recently by scholars calling for new approaches to tourism and greater levels of transparency, placing the emphasis on the cultural politics of research making, criticality, situated research, and broader levels of theorisation. This composite agenda of issues has been voiced and marked under the umbrella terms The Critical Turn, and “new” tourism research. In the contemporary context of emerging innovative work and an expanding range of research, this thesis asserts that tourism and travel play an important role in today’s world and contribute greatly to the formation of various social phenomena. Tourism Studies as a field is beginning to expand beyond the applied business approach, and critical enquiry is becoming more prominent with increasing numbers of researchers voicing their discontent over deprived tourism theorising. The three broad issues providing impetus for this work are the lack of philosophical research and researchers’ understanding of emic and etic involvement in the process, the poverty of tourism theory, and the lack of critical approaches in the field. In this critical framework of reference, this research study is mainly concerned with examining the process of knowledge production in Tourism Studies. I employ a constructionist approach to research and present tourism as a social phenomenon that cannot hold meaning independently of cultural interpretations. I highlight that the widespread use of etic, situated, and perspectival voices of researchers leads only to one type of knowledge that tends to disregard other ways of knowing and understanding. I point to the plurality of places and objects and propose that one’s understanding of tourism is the result of our situated being in the world, a philosophical notion proffered by Martin Heidegger. I thus present tourism as a phenomenon that can “tell us” about our being in the world – an act which summons a theoretical shift as to what tourism “is”, what it “does” and what it “can do”. With regard to the use of empirical data, I employ hermeneutic phenomenology as the research methodology and focus on the New Age phenomenon to demonstrate the construction of meaning and production of knowledge. Additionally, New Age is relevant in the context of the shifting social, political and cultural climate. I examine some of the emerging works in the field and conclude that travellers (in this thesis, New Agers) not only make, re-make, and constitute places; they also become entangled in tourist performances and use their bodies to learn, to experience and to grow spiritually. I conclude that post-disciplinarity, criticality, and reflexivity are valuable in the constructionist line of enquiry, and I present tourism as a creative endeavour into the understanding of the lived world. The key findings show that there is room for more constructionist and subjectivist epistemologies and further explorations into tacit knowledge, and also the need for researchers to pay more attention to the philosophical assumptions guiding their work.