Tourism scholarship as geopolitical instrument: A case study of Australian-Chinese collaboration

Authors: Ian Rowen*,
Topics: Tourism Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: tourism studies, geopolitics, research conference, ethnography, reflexive scholarship
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
Room: Bayside A, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines the instrumentality of tourism scholars and scholarship for geopolitical and foreign policy projects. Based on ethnography of an academic conference, it explores the rationales and ways in which scholars choose to tactically align with the geopolitical agendas of not only domestic but foreign and possibly hostile state administrations.
As a case study, I examine a recent tourism studies conference held in an Australian university in collaboration with Chinese researchers and funding institutions. This conference was discursively centered on the “Chinese Dream,” a signature rhetorical device of China’s President Xi Jinping, who has used it as a mission statement and manifesto to secure the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) role as the vehicle for national development. By actively positioning the international collaboration within the rhetorical bounds of the Chinese party-state, I argue that the Australian tourism academy’s participation explicitly subjects it to the CCP's geopolitical designs.
Building on an argument that tourist practice should be viewed as a technology of state territorialization—i.e., is, as a mode of social and spatial ordering that produces tourists and state territory as effects of power, this paper will take a further meta-discursive step to argue that the transnational knowledge production conducted by tourism scholars plays a key part in such practices and can therefore implicitly and explicitly advance the multifarious territorial projects of state actors. Renewed attention to researcher ethics and reflexivity, especially in a time of economic transformation and turmoil in the global academy, is suggested as a response.

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