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Discovering the Self: A Critical Phenomenological Paradigm for Tourism Research


Travel is becomingly increasing associated with self-work, in the form of self-discovery,

self-transformation, or self-documentation through writing and photography. In light of this expansive social trend, I argue that tourism research would benefit from an exploration of the existential self. I suggest that by discovering the self, anthropologists can connect tourism research to broader theoretical questions, such as: What is the relationship between structure and agency, subjectivity and power in an individual’s self-experience? I draw heavily on Douglas Hollan, Michel Foucault, and Pierre Bourdieu to propose a critical phenomenological paradigm that moves to address this complex set of questions. To demonstrate the utility of this paradigm for tourism research, I analyze two contemporary ethnographies, one on young Israeli backpackers and the other on multinational pilgrims who walk and cycle the Camino to Santiago, Spain.

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