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Trapped in Paradise: Entangled Mobilities and Imaginaries of Freedom

Titel Englisch Trapped in Paradise: Entangled Mobilities and Imaginaries of Freedom
Gesuchsteller/in Strasser Sabine
Nummer 169715
Förderungsinstrument Projektförderung (Abt. I-III)
Forschungseinrichtung Institut für Sozialanthropologie Universität Bern
Hochschule Universität Bern – BE
Hauptdisziplin Ethnologie
Beginn/Ende 01.01.2017 - 31.12.2019
Bewilligter Betrag 469'384.00
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Keywords (7)

mobilities; Switzerland; uncertainty; imaginaries; Mexico; tourism; freedom

Lay Summary (Französisch)

Lead
Ce projet s’attellera à explorer les notions de mobilité et de liberté sur deux sites prisés des touristes en quête d’aventure et de sensations fortes, tout en dépendant fortement de travailleuses et travailleurs immigré.e.s: Puerto Escondido, situé sur la côte Pacifique du Mexique et Grindelwald, village des Alpes suisses. Cette recherche aura pour objet les visiteuses et visiteurs qui ont fait le choix de tenter l’aventure du tourisme de l’extrême, les migrant.e.s qui, dû à de nombreuses conditions dans leur pays d’origine, ont entrepris de migrer dans des conditions incertaines afin de participer à l’industrie du tourisme et les locaux qui voient arriver ces groupes de populations divers.
Lay summary

L’étude ethnographique approfondie de ces deux sites permettra au projet de s’inscrire dans un nouveau corpus de recherche documentant les expériences touristiques et les intersections entre différents types de mobilités. En suivant touristes, migrant.e.s et locaux, nous souhaitons mieux comprendre comment les individus vivent et approchent leur liberté de mouvement tout en étant confrontés aux obstacles la conditionnant ou l’entravant de manières inégales. 

Les imaginaires et expériences qui ont attrait au tourisme sont de plus en plus abordés en anthropologie, et les deux sites offrent une excellente opportunité de comparaison pour diverses raisons ; les deux pays où se trouvent ces sites bénéficient de situations opposées quant à leurs niveaux d’(in-)sécurité, tout en offrant des prestations similaires, dites de l’extrême, visant un public hautement mobile. Dépendants d’un tourisme de saison, ils accueillent également des travailleuse et travailleurs, majoritairement migrant.e.s, dans des conditions plus ou moins précaires. De plus, tous deux jouissent d’une image de pureté, de préservation mais aussi d’isolement du monde extérieur, atteignables par l’expérience d’une évasion sauvage. Le paradis se trouve au cœur de l’imaginaire touristique et, s’il évoque des images de mondes paradisiaques, il est étymologiquement lié à l’idée d’un endroit clos. 

Direktlink auf Lay Summary Letzte Aktualisierung: 21.10.2016

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Mitarbeitende

Abstract

The year 2015 witnessed unprecedented levels of migration, and despite constant headlines of crisis, record levels of tourism. This project will look at issues of mobility and freedom at two sites that appeal to adventure and experience seeking tourists, while depending on migrant workers to service the industry: Puerto Escondido on the Pacific coast of Mexico (subproject A), and Grindelwald in the Alps of Switzerland (subproject B). It will focus on those who willingly embark on risk-taking adventure tourism and those who, due to a variety of conditions at home, have undertaken often-risky migrations to work in the unstable tourism industry, as well as the locals who find themselves hosting these groups. By undertaking in-depth ethnographic studies at the two sites, this project will build on an emerging body of research into tourist experience and the intersecting trajectories of uneven mobilities. Through the experiences of these tourist and migrant travellers, and also through their interactions with local communities, we aim to better understand how people experience and experiment with freedom of movement while encountering the obstacles and barriers that impede or condition it. Tourism imaginaries and experiences are being treated ever more seriously in anthropology, and the two sites offer an ideal opportunity for comparison for several reasons; the two countries sit on opposite sides of the scale of (in)security, yet both sites offer similarly extreme activities for hyper-mobile tourists, as well as seasonal tourism with precarious conditions for (largely migrant) workers. The two sites also present very specific imageries of unspoilt, isolated and rugged escape from the outside world. For visitors, and especially the adventure tourists, they are portrayed as a paradise on earth, a space of liberation. Paradise is a notion at the very heart of the tourism imaginary, and while it conjures up images of idyllic places, etymologically it has its origins in the idea of an enclosed park. Here it echoes an increasingly prevalent mood, that walls and fences must be erected in order to safeguard nation-states, holiday resorts, and what we rhetorically regard as most sacred – our sense of freedom. This tension between movement and stability also means that some tourists get caught up in their desires for escape, becoming trapped in gestures of excess, and migrant workers can feel stuck as they are confronted by tourists who seem to have it all. For locals the necessity of maintaining a tourist friendly identity can become suffocating, and expats and others who end up residing in tourist towns can feel neither here nor there. The project will thus also show how dreams of paradise can often lead into a trap and paralysing immobility. As such these sites represent places where ideas of freedom are experimented with in relation to ideals of risk-taking and transformation, but also seclusion, security, and escape. The two sites exist within a tension of appearing as risky-but-safe, modern-yet-premodern, remote-yet-connected. The project will therefore undertake ethnographic fieldwork with a particular emphasis on mobile visual methods to explore the imaginaries and paradoxes that lie at the heart of these remote paradises and maintain these tensions. Focusing on the experiences and stories that emerge through travel and encounter, and that complicate any simplistic categorisation, it will make an important contribution to anthropological studies at the intersection of mobility and tourism. Ultimately, the project aims for a more nuanced understanding of the politics of uneven mobility, how people comprehend and experiment with notions of freedom and its conditions, movement and stasis, and how ideal places such as paradise can turn on its inhabitants to become claustrophobic and isolating.
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