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Solène Prince Title : Authenticity as Stories of the Self: Implications for Critical Tourism Studies

10:00 AM, Mardi 22 Juin 2021 (30 minutes)
Authenticity as Stories of the Self: Implications for Critical Tourism Studies


Solène Prince

Travelling is often considered as a way to find existential authenticity. Tourists are here preoccupied with the existential quest of finding their true selves during their emersion in a context where they can feel a sense of novelty. However, many tourism scholars also see authenticity as an intersubjective phenomenon, coming from the fusion of landscapes, artefacts, memories and interactions into meaningful personal experiences. Tourism is a subjective yet socially constructed experience, which exists through embodiments and performances that reproduce social norms and codes of conduits. In this presentation, I want to locate authenticity in the performance of a narration aimed at framing a coherent and desirable story of the self to an audience. Narratives divulge how people make sense of their selves as socio-cultural subjects in order to define their identity.

Firstly, in my presentation, I give an example of this dynamic with the results of my study on the ancestral travels to Sweden of Swedish-American amateur genealogists. Genealogical identities find their meaning within a postmodern context that presses individuals to make sense of their lives. These identities emerge through a narration of the self within a socio-cultural context that values genetic discoveries and blood connections. During their narration of their travels to Sweden, amateur genealogists are very concerned about how they present themselves to their audience as related to Swedish people and as Swedish themselves. It leads them to describe all sort of performances (i.e. attending family events, imagining their ancestors in the landscape…), and even to enact all sorts of performances during their interviews (i.e., speaking Swedish, showing objects…). Ancestry and belonging is not so much about DNA results, but more about narrative performances that make these social phenomena exist

In the second part of my presentation, I want to explore the implications of locating authenticity in stories-of-the-self for critical tourism studies. With social media especially, the self is increasingly scrutinized and thus highly responsive to the gaze of others during its presentation. Trends such as flight shaming and the ethics of traveling during a health pandemic will arguably lead to the production of new travel narratives amongst tourists. These narratives will uphold certain discourses and realities about tourism by blending imagination, social norms and desires together in coherent and morally acceptable stories-of-the-self. What do travel narratives serve to dismiss, exaggerate, deny or rationalize in the wake of the growing inequalities caused by tourism? How can we as tourism researchers study and approach emerging travel narratives to understand critically the production of tourism discourses and realities?

Mid-Sweden University
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