EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Tourism in (post)socialist Eastern Europe (Anthromob; IUAES-TOURISM; EASA Europeanist Network)

Location M-134
Date and Start Time 03 August, 2014 at 09:00


Nelson Graburn (University of California, Berkeley) email
Magdalena Banaszkiewicz (Jagiellonian University) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

The political transformation of Eastern Europe since the 1980s has revolutionized tourism praxis. Small companies flourish promoting culturalization and individualism, changing worldviews to express new identities and ethnicities, seeking mental/spiritual support and rapprochement with nature.

Long Abstract

The transformation of political systems in Eastern Europe in the 80s and 90s produced significant effects on the tourism industry. First, tourism ceased to be benefit solely of social security programmes. Tourist services became commercialized and state enterprises privatized. The opening of home markets created favourable conditions for a wide range of tourist-related companies, especially micro, small and medium. Open borders enabled free movement between countries. The dominant role of tour operators and workplaces which organized recreation changed radically, evolving towards individual and self-organized travels. Moreover, a new model of tourism organization was developed at national and local levels. Tourism became an integral part of life for the average Eastern European citizen.

20 years of tourist industry developments and changing travel patterns can be analysed through the prism of anthropology. Papers might address some of the following:

1. Culturalization and individualisation of tourist praxis and new class formations (the development of package tourism and subsequent openings for cultural, 3E tourism)

2. The influence on worldviews (stereotypes, a category of 'the stranger', social distance, emergent ethnicities) and new, global trends (e.g. evolution of gender and family relations)

3. Tourism as re-creation: searching for mental, psychical, spiritual support, active tourism, relationships with nature

4. Revitalization of heritage, including controversial ones like industrial or socialist heritage

5. Regionalization and globalization (e.g. crossborder cooperation, UE & Shengen Zone)

6. Discovering ethno-cultural identity (e.g. ethnic cuisine, festivals, design)

7. Memory and history (e.g. historical narrative in the creation of tourist products)

Discussant: Svetlana Rhyzhakova

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


A taste of communist life: communist heritage as a tourist attraction

Author: Magdalena Banaszkiewicz (Jagiellonian University)  email

Short Abstract

The aim of this presentation is to describe phenomena of 'communist heritage' which attracts attention of tourist in post-soviet region. The basis of these considerations will be a case study of 'crazy tours' led in Cracow (Poland).

Long Abstract

After the collapse of communist regimes societies in Middle and Eastern Europe were forced to confront with the cultural heritage of the last decades, which shas been shaping a collective and national identity. While many people have been obsessed with the memory, the most tengible and and visual aspects of this heritage easily become tourist products. Thematic tours, exhibitions, and events devoted to recent past mashroomed all over the region. Using the case of "crazy tours" in Cracow (thematic tours, showing Nowa Huta District, where guests can discover traces of socialist history), I'll try to shed light on the problem of history, place and authenticity. Basing on Graham Danns' theory I'll explore the subject of stereotypes in tourist narrative, concentrating on the methods in which the image of the past is sold in 'cultural supermarket'.

Historical blueprints of tourist paths from Poland to the former USSR

Authors: Agata Bachórz (University of Gdansk)  email
Anna Horolets (University of Gdańsk)  email

Short Abstract

The paper is focusing on the role of remembering and forgetting historical past in the narratives of contemporary Polish tourists to the countries of the former USSR. On the basis of ethnographic research we attempt to reconstruct the role of history in constructing contemporary tourist practice.

Long Abstract

Since 1989 tourism from Poland to the former USSR constitutes one of tourist flows on the decline in numerical terms. Considerably higher numbers of tourists have been choosing Western destinations after 1989. At the same time among certain socio-economic groups the countries of the former Soviet Union are considered an attractive tourist destination, their choices being informed by their identity and social status quest as well as by a certain degree of resistance to mass tourism and mainstream public discourse representations of the area, e.g. in the news. In our paper we would like to concentrate on the role of remembering and forgetting historical past in tourist practices, since there is a long history of mutual dependence tainted by conflict and domination between the countries of the former USSR (Russia in particular) and Poland. We aim at establishing if and how the history of mobility other than touristic one (volunteer and non-volunteer, i.e. work and forced displacement) is reflected upon in contemporary tourist narratives. We compare the past and the present routes and maps of Polish presence at the territory of the former USSR and ask questions regarding the historic reflexivity of contemporary tourist practices, memory and oblivion of historic past, and the production of knowledge about the destination in tourist accounts. In doing so we rely on the ethnographic material and travel writing narratives collected within the two research projects that were undertaken in 2008-2012 among tourists going to Russia and to countries of the former Soviet Union, respectively.

Pilgrimage and/or tourism in a Bosnian Croat shrine of Kondžilo

Author: Mario Katić (University of Zadar)  email

Short Abstract

The ethnographic case problematizes the relationship and boundary between the concepts of tourism and pilgrimage and illustrates how the context in which we observe them can have a significant influence on how we define the participants as pilgrims, tourist or pilgrims and tourist.

Long Abstract

Kondžilo is a Bosnian Croat pilgrimage place in Northeast Bosnia established in the 18th century. Before the 1990s war in Bosnia and Herzegovina pilgrimage to Kondžilo was just another pilgrimage place in BiH. After the war ended the shrine's importance has rapidly increased. The pilgrimage to Kondžilo today is almost the only reason why Bosnian Croats from Usora region, at least, once a year come to their homeland and homes. In my paper I will discuss the nature of this travel/pilgrimage, its meaning to pilgrims and its connection to religious tourism. To date most researchers have focused on the pilgrim/tourist dichotomy while the place of pilgrimage, is somewhat neglected. The place of pilgrimage/ tourism itself exerts of shaping influence on its visitors which is clearly illustrated with the Kondžilo sacred site. I will discuss how different pilgrimages, or different context can, and does influence pilgrims, and/or our interpretation of the same pilgrims. It seems that this journey/pilgrimage consist of the "secular" journey and the "religious" pilgrimage. It fulfils two main functions that are mixed and complementing each other; on one side it is a gathering of displaced community accompanied with leisure time and festivities, and on the other it is a religious pilgrimage of the individual in need of spiritual comfort. It seems that religious pilgrimage to Kondžilo is not the only motive for the travel, but it is a good reason to go back to old home - to roots.

Atheist museum in Shkodra

Author: Ermela Broci (Cultural Anthropology)  email

Short Abstract

Atheism in Albania took a new form after the Constitute of 1976. The religious institutions were closed and most were destroyed and became youth cultural centers. In 9 June 1973 “The atheist museum” was opened.

Long Abstract

Atheism in Albania took a new form after the Constitute of 1976 and in the light of Marxist-Leninist ideology become a policy with full rights and its aim was the removal of all beliefs and religions organizations .In 1968 Albania, as other European countries, suffered a cultural revolution, approaching more to the Chinese alliance; thus the churches and mosques were destroyed and their legal status were gradually abolished. The religious institutions were closed and most were destroyed and became youth cultural centers. Whereas all the materials of churches and mosques were gathered in a museum in Shkodra named "The atheist museum", opened on 9 June 1973. This museum was visited by 560 foreign groups and 2500 visitors.

This article aims to focus to the reasons why this museum was opened in Shkodra, its role in the city, impact to tourism seen through the reviews preserved today in the Historical Museum of Shkodra.

Tourist narratives about the dissonant heritage of the Borderlands

Author: Sabina Owsianowska (University School of Physical Education in Krakow)  email

Short Abstract

Tourism and its narratives is an important tool for spreading ethnic and national stereotypes by promoting cultural resources and performances that enable cooperation and mutual understanding. However, it can also be a source of potential conflicts by creating controversial tourist attractions.

Long Abstract

One of the important effect of the political transformation in Eastern Europe is the development of tourism and increasing mobility of citizens of many countries, previously separated by the "Iron Curtain". The process of economic and socio-cultural changes justifies the debate on the future but also on the dissonant heritage of the past, for example in the South-eastern Poland, neighbouring with the Ukraine and Slovakia. Tourism and its narratives is an important tool of spreading, strengthen or weaken ethnic and national stereotypes by promoting cultural resources and performances that enable the cooperation and mutual understanding. However, it can also be a source of potential fears or conflicts, for instance by creating controversial tourist attractions and stories about the historical events, such as the reconstruction of Volhynia massacre (1943). On the one hand, it was argued that the reconstruction, which was organized in Radymno in 2013, memorized the victims and could help in dealing with the past. On the other hand, it raises questions about the motives and limits of such initiatives, also in the context of dark tourism. These questions are open, especially if one takes into consideration the issues which still give rise to very strong emotions. In the paper, I present the voices of Polish inhabitants of the town and its neighbourhood, the representatives of tourist sector and a group of Ukrainian students. Moreover, a semiotic analysis of different tourist texts reveals some omitted or underrepresented aspects and hidden messages in dominant narratives about the Borderlands.

Performing the good tourism encounter: social healing and moral empowerment in rural Masuria, northeast Poland

Author: Hannah Wadle (University of Manchester)  email

Short Abstract

This paper addresses the social role of the tourism encounter in rural Poland. It argues that in a moment of late post-socialist social stigmatisation and paralysis, the tourism encounter can generate moments of empowerment and reconciliation with contemporary Polish society.

Long Abstract

How do tourism encounters shape people's social relations, and their experiences of self and other in the shifting (leisure) economy and stratifying society of the New Poland? Based on the cases of rural tourism entrepreneurs in the Masurian Lake District, a popular Polish tourism destination, this paper argues that the encounter with tourists and tourism offers temporal, cyclic, or permanent escape from to the social and moral paralysis of the rural communities in the deprived Northeast of Poland. The tourism encounter generates culturally self-standing relationships and performances, which follow their own rules and have their own histories.

I show that the stark systemic ruptures since 1989 have produced radically different ideas of the good tourism encounter in the close neighbourhood of three villages: Ideas based on socialist ideals of the tourist, on the early post-socialist tourism market, and on late post-socialist tourism authenticity. Despite these different concepts of the authentic nature of the encounter, the tourism encounter plays a similar role for the rural entrepreneurs. It offers the performative space of the touristic borderzone (Bruner 2005), and empowers rural agents through a heterotopic social relation. In this flexible space, in which they renegotiate their roles as cultural performers and social personae, rural residents experience moments of social healing and moral reconciliation with late post-socialist Polish society.

Innovation of traditional practice or the cultural economy of the bath-house (pirts)

Author: Agnese Cimdina (University of Latvia)  email

Short Abstract

This paper introduces bath-house ritual which has become a highly demanded service in the contemporary Latvian countryside and fits within a broader rural development discourse addressing the commodification of experience, tradition and innovation through rural recreation tourism.

Long Abstract

By analyzing how Latvian smallholders have discovered new business possibilities and how, in an innovative manner, ancient bath-house traditions are turned into a product that can be purchased, this paper introduces several aspects of a bath-house ritual which has become a highly demanded service in the contemporary Latvian countryside. On the one hand, the renaissance of bath-house services in Latvia is related to the rediscovered centuries-old Latvian pirts traditions that have acquired new transnational significance; on the other hand, the popularity of bath-house procedures are linked with worldwide "wellness industry" trends.

The components which make the bath-house ritual pleasurable are at least partly derived from a particular cultural and environmental context and thus can be viewed as an area of economic activity where production and consumption of experience takes place. This paper not only reflects on the growth of rural recreation tourism, but also fits within a broader rural development discourse addressing the commodification of experience, tradition and innovation through rural tourism.

The empirical material of the paper is based on a long-term study of rural bath-house farms where the author herself learned the bath-house craft to gain a profound understanding of the specific nature of bath-house rituals and running a bath-house farm.

Localising experience economy in the post-socialist countryside: guided explorations of body and soul in rural Estonia

Authors: Maarja Kaaristo (Manchester Metropolitan University)  email
Ester Bardone (University of Tartu)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses contemporary post-socialist post-modern Estonian countryside that is (re)constructed by rural tourism entrepreneurs as a site for diverse leisure activities, where the practices of everyday life are transformed into guided experiences of rurality.

Long Abstract

Rural places have long history of being recreational environments where one can retreat from the urban environment to relax and celebrate nostalgic longing for (idyllic) nature and (peasant) traditions. In the context of experience economy, variety of services are provided by the hosts in which personal guidance plays a crucial role.

After the collapse of Soviet Union, Estonia has adopted neoliberal economic and agricultural policies that have discouraged small-scale production and encouraged the establishment of rural tourism and hospitality enterprises in the countryside, taking advantages of both natural and cultural resources as well as of entrepreneurs' creativity. Former farmsteads have become farm tourism establishments and some hosts have come up with novel experiences services. The contemporary post-socialist post-modern Estonian countryside is (re)constructed as a site for diverse leisure activities where the practices of everyday life - such as taking a sauna or having a walk - have transformed into experience-providing tourism services. We are focusing on two types of such services that combine the traditional and novel cultural elements: the designed auditory experience of "silence" and the multisensory experience of taking the sauna. Drawing on our fieldwork conducted in Estonian rural tourism establishments in 2008-2014, we examine the experiencescapes of these two services in regard to the idea of spirituality and personally perceived experiential authenticity of the hosts.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.