In Encounters across Difference, Natalia Bloch examines tourism encounters in the informal sector in India and their potential to empower subaltern communities. Drawing from ethnographic evidence in Hampi and Dharamshala, Bloch explores the potential of tourism to promote political engagement, volunteering, sponsorship, local entrepreneurship, and women’s empowerment. Contrary to the frequent criticism of tourism to the Global South as a colonial practice, Bloch argues that workers and small entrepreneurs in displaced communities see tourists as allies in their political struggles and, on a more individual level, as an opportunity to build better lives.
For more information, check out A Conversation with Natalia Bloch, author of Encounters across Difference: Tourism and Overcoming Subalternity in India.
Natalia Bloch is associate professor in the Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań
Introduction: Anthropology and Tourism: Dangerous Liaisons?
Chapter 1. In a Circle of Mobility: Field Sites, Research Partners, Methods
Chapter 2. The World Map as Seen from the Peripheries: Tourist as an Object of Gaze
Chapter 3. Not-So-Empty Meeting Grounds: Self-Representations and Relationships
Chapter 4. Recovering the Subaltern Voices: Tourism and Engagement
Chapter 5. Tourism as a Source of Individual Empowerment: Stories of Encounter
An exemplary book in every way, Encounters across Difference makes a major contribution to our understanding of tourism’s possibilities for creating spaces where subalterns can exercise agency and regain their voices. Through lucidly written ethnographic accounts, Bloch problematizes simplistic yet enduring representations of tourism as a new genre of colonial relations wherein ‘tourists’ and ‘locals’ are locked in unequal relations of political struggle. Likewise, Bloch offers nuanced and ethnographically grounded reassessments of recent critiques of volunteer tourism and contributes to current discussions of the ways in which friendships, romances, and employment relationships unfolding in the context of tourism offer informal opportunities for individual empowerment. Her case studies of encounters between tourists (both domestic and international), displaced residents, migrant workers, refugees, and foreign NGO volunteers in two Indian destinations artfully demonstrate the value of a bottom-up approach to understanding tourism’s possibilities for shifting political perceptions and presenting new opportunities for historically marginalized individuals and communities. Theoretically sophisticated and engagingly written, Bloch’s book is certain to earn a respected place on the bookshelves of scholars of tourism, migration, and refugee studies. Moreover, it also promises to become a classic teaching text for courses on the anthropology of tourism.
This is a splendid ethnography enriched by an exquisite command of the literature and current theoretical debates on social theory. The central questions that lead the book are remarkable: can subalterns regain their voice to control their own representation under the mediation of tourism space? This book shows that tourism is neither the kingdom of deceit, nor the purest expression of neo-colonialism, but rather, a bounteous context where grassroot sociality between locals and tourists gives meaning to the possibilities that arise in everyday life. While considering the power relations implicit in this dialogic encounter, and inscribing local practices in the world order, Natalia Bloch shows that the construction of victimized insiders and arrogant outsiders is inconsistent with her long-term participant observation in India. Bloch decolonizes the scholarly discourse on tourism to demonstrate that Hampi and Dharamshala are two valuable ethnographic case studies in discussions about diverse tourisms. For this reason, Encounters across Difference: Tourism and Overcoming Subalternity in India is a must-read book for researchers, theorists, and practitioners.
This inspiring book brings valuable new insights into the emancipatory possibilities of tourism. Brought alive by the ‘mobile stories’ of actual people and encounters which attempt to move beyond the framework of transaction-oriented capitalism, this book stimulates a re-evaluation of the inherently complex and ambiguous relationships between tourists and host communities.
Building on a sophisticated theoretical approach and detailed empirical research among the diverse actors that live, travel, and meet at the margins of India’s tourism sector, Natalia Bloch’s monograph provides compelling evidence of the potential of touristic encounters to build alliances, create new opportunities, and radically alter people’s lives in unexpected and promising ways. While attentive to broader structural conditions and inequalities, this book challenges conventional readings and categorizations, foregrounding the ways tourism can favorably shape the political, economic, social, and cultural worlds of its most underprivileged protagonists. Replete with absorbing stories that testify to Bloch’s subtle, empathetic, and long-term engagement with her interlocutors, the book powerfully illustrates the multifaceted and dynamic features of tourism and the encounters it generates, opening new ground for future research. Encounters across Difference is a fascinating and thought-provoking contribution that will captivate scholars, students, and a broader readership interested in tourism in India and beyond.
This engaging and clearly-written book discusses the relationships between hosts and guests in two popular backpacking destinations in India. Bloch shows that relationships between the hosts and foreign guests are not necessarily passing and superficial but can actually become meaningful, mutually beneficial, and long-lasting. Much has been written about backpackers in India, but this book is a welcome contribution since it discusses the phenomenon from various angles, taking into account the larger societal contexts and the diversity of both the hosts and the guests. It expertly shows how long-term ethnographic research enables the researcher to go beyond the surface, providing the reader with rich and insightful information.