SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Tourism and Travel: A Global Perspective

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2021/2022
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Term 1

Tourism is the world's largest industry and the single greatest peacetime factor moving people around the world. As both a manifestation and a medium of globalisation, it has profound significance in multiple realms of human life—economic, environmental, material, social, and cultural. This makes it an ideal lens through which to explore core themes in contemporary social anthropology, such as locality, identity and alterity, political economy, development, heritage, representation, imagination, commodification, and the global circulation of people, objects, ideas, images, and capital. Viewed in this light, tourism is not merely a type of travel; it is a complex social field that spans the globe, comprised of diverse actors, institutions, activities, and modes of interaction that overlap with and cross-cross other forms of global interconnection.

This option course introduces tourism as an arena of anthropological enquiry, from the emergence of "the anthropology of tourism" as a subfield in the 1970s to the key theoretical debates of the present. Throughout, we will maintain focus on tourism as one among many systems/networks of global interconnection, past and present. We will also work to situate "tourism" as a social category of travel, one that varies culturally and historically.

Instruction includes a combination of lectures and seminars. Both are required. Engaged discussion is the heart of this course, and students must be prepared to discuss and debate issues raised by the lectures, readings, and films.


  • Students enrol via the online Module Sign-Up system.
  • Anthropology PhD students may audit upon request. Due to space limitations, no other auditors will be permitted.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the history, scope, and methods of the anthropology of tourism.
  • Situate the anthropological study of tourism in relation to broader emphases and trends in anthropological and social theory.
  • Explain the anthropological significance of tourism in relation to globalisation and vice versa.
  • Critically engage with the concepts of 'authenticity' and 'cultural heritage' and explain how these notions are politically, culturally, and economically shaped.
  • Identify and discuss diverse historical/cultural factors shaping patterns and practices of leisure travel.
  • Critically analyse tourism-related development projects in light of anthropological insights.
  • Determine the particular social and cultural significance of tourism-related practices, imagery, media, and institutions in diverse ethnographic contexts.
  • Undertake independent research in the anthropological literature on an aspect of tourism/voluntary mobility in the contemporary world.

Suggested reading

Background and representative material:

  • Leite, Naomi and Nelson Graburn. 2009. “Anthropological Interventions in Tourism Studies,” in T. Jamal and M. Robinson, eds., The Sage Handbook of Tourism Studies. London: Sage.
  • Chambers, Erve. 2010. Native Tours: The Anthropology of Tourism and Travel, 2nd ed. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
  • Bruner, Edward. 2005. Culture on Tour: Ethnographies of Travel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Salazar, Noel, and Nelson Graburn, eds. 2014. Tourism Imaginaries: Anthropological Approaches. Oxford: Berghahn.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules