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Chris E. Hurst Title : Embracing the discomfort: Autoethnographic reflections on culturally sensitive tourism in the Canadian (sub)arctic

2:30 PM, Monday 21 Jun 2021 (30 minutes)
Embracing the discomfort: Autoethnographic reflections on culturally sensitive tourism in the Canadian (sub)arctic

Chris E. Hurst

This presentation is a critical reflection of my experiences and affective discomfort as a white settler engaging with Indigenous tourism and cultural sensitivity in the context of the Culturally Sensitive Tourism in the Arctic (ARCTISEN) project. ARCTISEN is a three-year, transnational project aimed at supporting the development of tourism products that respect, and are sensitive to, the communities and cultures of the Arctic (ARCTISEN, 2020). This ethnography reflects on, and engages with, different moments of my participation with ARCTISEN - from a desk study, to presentations, to a visit to Yellowknife in February 2020 to consult with stakeholders and acclimate to the public tourism landscape in the Canadian (sub)arctic. The presentation explores the personal disquietude and moral/ethical conflictions that I experienced as a white settler, scholar, tourist, and consumer in this space.

Engaging Tuck and Yang’s (2012) moves towards innocence assuaging settler colonial guilt, the presentation resists two of these moves - conscientization (i.e., critical consciousness/awareness without action) and at-risking/ asterisk-ing Indigenous peoples (i.e., erasure and marginalization of Indigenous populations in public discourse). To resist these moves to innocence, the ethnography follows and embraces the affective discomfort that I felt across various points of my participation in the ARCTISEN project. Specifically, I explore the affective experience of: i) tensioning the development of authentic, Indigenous-led tourism products with cultural commodification (Carr, Ruhanen & Whitford, 2016; ITAC, 2018); and ii) calling into question authenticity, cultural appropriation and pan-Aboriginalism in the souvenir/ native craft industry (Blundell, 1993). Lastly, I consider how embracing discomfort allows for questioning who decides in the context of Indigenous tourism and souvenir offerings in the Canadian (sub)arctic and beyond.


ARCTISEN. (19 March 2020). Culturally sensitive tourism in the arctic (2018-2021) [Website]. Retrieved from

Blundell, V. (1993). Aboriginal empowerment and souvenir trade in Canada. Annals of Tourism Research, 20(1),64 – 87.

Carr, A., Ruhanen, L., & Whitford, M. (2016). Indigenous peoples and tourism: The challenges and opportunities for sustainable tourism. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 24(8-9), 1067-1079.

Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC). (2018). National guidelines: Developing authentic Indigenous experiences in Canada [Guide]. Retrieved from

Tuck, E., & Yang, K. W. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), 1 -40.

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