While authenticity discourses have enjoyed sustained attention in tourism studies, they have only more recently come into the fold of research examining tourists’ experiences in what is colloquially referred to as “nature” or “wilderness”. However, what constitutes “authentic nature” or “wilderness” as well as the place of authenticity in nature-based tourism and recreation activities is important to understand in our increasingly urban society. Does the perceived authenticity of “nature” or “wilderness” matter to users/visitors? Does authentic “wilderness” even exist anymore, and is that a factor in how or why individuals engage with tourism and recreation in “nature”? Further, how do notions of authentic wilderness interact with contemporary preservation and sustainability discourses, and what types of recreation are permissible?
Indeed, authenticity has a role in driving motivations, expectations, and experiences crucial to nature-based tourism activities, informing expectations of what nature or wilderness is supposed to look like, and how recreationalists are supposed to comport themselves there (see Senda-Cook, 2012; Rickly & Vidon, 2017). An important consideration is that nature and wilderness have been constructed as privileged spaces frequently associated with the recreational, tourism, and leisure spheres, themselves privileged, rarely interacting in any substantive way with the “workaday world”. And while many applaud designations of protected nature, others object, citing protection of authentic nature and wilderness as a mechanism for government land grabs (see Neumann, 1998; Vidon, 2016). For example, nature and wilderness are central figures in conflicts over land use, and both tourism and leisure activities figure prominently in those conflicts (Saarinen, 2016; Vidon, 2016; Rickly & Vidon, 2017).
To date, these themes have been little explored in tourism studies, yet there is both a theoretical and a pragmatic need for such investigations. At present, ideological battles are being fought over the authenticity of nature and wilderness, and those who use these spaces for recreation and re-creation occupy powerful positions in such conflicts. Addressing these themes from a diversity of perspectives is important and timely, and is one of the central aims of this session and the special issue that will follow.
|Presenter||Jane Lovell*, Canterbury Christ Church University, Sam Hitchmough, University of Bristol, Looping the loop of authenticity in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Westworld||20||8:00 AM|
|Presenter||Sara Newman*, University of Colorado - Denver, Front and back, fit and fat: A Discourse Analysis of Health, Nature and Tourism in Alaska||20||8:20 AM|
|Presenter||Theodora G Weatherby*, SUNY-ESF, Elizabeth S Vidon, SUNY- ESF, Teresa Selfa, SUNY-ESF, Andrea M Feldpausch-Parker, SUNY-ESF, Christina M Limpert, SUNY-ESF, Women Gone Wild: Social media and women's wilderness empowerment||20||8:40 AM|
|Presenter||Elizabeth Vidon*, SUNY-ESF, Jillian Rickly, University of Nottingham, Daniel Knudsen, Indiana University, Wilderness state of mind: Postmodernity, hyperreality, and simulacrum||20||9:00 AM|
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